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Written by Team Wizikey

May 13, 2022

Data can help you assess the impact: Manasi from Khatabook

Today’s episode features Manasi Shah from Khatabook, discussing her storytelling journey and how data drives her work.

Data can help you assess the impact: Manasi from Khatabook

Data-driven communications have become imperative for businesses looking to stay competitive in a marketplace where consumers are offered many products and services on a daily basis. Today’s episode features Manasi Shah, Head of Communications and PR at Khatabook, discussing her storytelling journey and how data drives her work.

1. How did you end up in comms?

My first job was with The Times of India, not on the editorial side but part of the industry. Post that, I got into academic management at IIM Ahmedabad. That’s where I worked on the research side and consumer behavior. It helped me groom my communication capabilities in terms of how to present data, how to tell a story etc. That’s how I ended up at Cisco. My first job at Cisco was as an executive communication manager. Cisco gave me the opportunity to work on various portfolios within the company, including internal communications, executive communication, public relations, and so on. Then, I moved on to Uber where I got an opportunity to work on the consumer tech, which was again very fascinating given the industry that Uber was in and the kind of brand it was. Finally, Khattabook provided me with an opportunity to work on building a communication platform for startups. I’d never built anything from scratch. I always worked with companies where they had a very well-organized communication team. However, with Khatabook, I was able to onboard the right partners, set up the right tone & narratives, and build the kind of messaging & PR we wanted to carry forward for the brand.

2. When was your first interaction with data?

We are surrounded by data consciously or unconsciously. All of us interact with a lot of data. At times you have it well documented in the spreadsheet and then you are supposed to make the decisions based on that. I was quite acquainted with data and I would give that credit to my job at IIM, where I was part of the academic research. I was trained to develop a hypothesis wherein there is agreement or disagreement for a hypothesis based on the data. I believe a little amount of research background helped me understand the value of data. Having said that, no matter which field or which stream of profession you are in, data is something you have to deal with either in a structured way or in a very unstructured way.

3. Tell us about a campaign where there was a challenge and data helped solve it?

To start with, data can help you craft your communications strategies. Based on data, you can tell a very good story, come up with a smart campaign, and data can help you assess the impact of the communication. It’s a two-way process. I always start with data to craft communication. For Khatabook, one of the major narratives that we focus on is conducting research or examining our platform data to tell a story. For example, we published an MSME business sentiment survey. The story talks about in terms of the team surveying almost 15,000 MSMEs on the platform. We talk about what percentage of MSMEs believe that 2022 is going to be a good year and what kind of challenges they faced in the past year. Further, we look at a lot of platform data like–which states are thriving and in which states the credit recovery for the MSMEs is slow, which states prefer cash as a mode of transaction, and which states are more digitized. Thus, this is the kind of data we look at to tell a bigger story. In a nutshell, when everything is considered from a stakeholder standpoint, even policymakers gain insight into how the MSME ecosystem in India is behaving because of the khatabook platform. If you don’t think of data in this way, you are just wasting a great opportunity to tell the story through this data, which you already have readily available. All you have to do is run certain analytics and try to holistically make sense out of it, and of course, put it in a story format and tell the world so that they can consume it.

4. What is your go-to metric?

I track some of the usual metrics– to benchmark against the industry. The brand share of voice and readership is something I closely follow because these are some of the high-level impacts. Then of course the impressions, unique mentions, and unique authors on social media. Personally, I also like to look at the percentage split between the mentioned and the standalone stories to give you an idea, and also the tonality, if you can assess that. These are some of my favorite metrics. However, I believe we often overlook the qualitative aspect of communication. It also matters if an employee pings you after reading a coverage. That shows the impact of the story. For example, if you have put up an announcement related to a business expansion or hiring and leadership and the company starts getting messages on LinkedIn saying, “Hey, I’m interested.” That’s another important metric. So, I would say to look beyond the obvious. This kind of qualitative data or the inputs is extremely important. 

5. What tools do you use to gain data insights?

 We personally do not have an in-house tool at present. However, IMPACT is the usual portal that we use and from where we get the regular benchmark against the industry like the share of voice etc. There are no rules, but I like to maintain my own dashboard. If I receive any kind of feedback from a journalist, an employee, or anyone from the industry, I retain the qualitative comments about the coverage. 

We also maintain a certain tonality. So, what happens when you benchmark against the industry, say— a particular brand had only 2000 articles and your brand had only 100? That 2000 can be due to negative PR. Contrary to popular belief that any PR is good PR, I believe only good PR is good PR. Hence, I like to bifurcate that. When benchmarking against the industry, I only use positive corporate announcements or user stories. 

6. Are there any data points you wish there was a platform for?

 I believe India is still a very print-focused market. In terms of digital, we are doing a good job. With the hashtags and the keywords, we can track the conversation, the unique mentions, etc. But what about B or C-category publication of small towns in India that has a great reach and great impact? They too have a loyal following, but there is no way to assess that. If someone can crack that, it would be a huge help. We do put out a lot of announcements and we know that the regional publications are very strong, but there is no way to assess the impact of that.

7. How do you see data and comms evolve?

 Communication is going to get extremely regional, and the tonality is going to get regional and local. A lot of different mediums (print and digital) in the regional languages will have to be incorporated into your storytelling depending on the language. You must craft your storytelling accordingly. That’s where the major change is going to be. It’s not going to be one press release that you do for the entire nation and give a translated release for others. That’s not going to be the trend. I think PR professionals will have to be extremely regionally focused. We will have to come up with a solid engagement plan for the regional and local media.

 

8. What is your advice for the budding comms and PR folks?

Being a good listener is extremely important, as is absorbing the data and information.  As a PR professional, the more sense you can make of it, the stronger you will become at storytelling and assessing the impact of that storytelling. So, I would say communication, listening, comprehension, and data are the key things that you need to focus on.

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