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Whitepaper
June 20, 2019

An introduction to PR and communications strategy

The why, the how and the challenge

Although it may be obvious, Public Relations (PR) as a discipline is shifting along with the landscapes in which they work. While it is not immune to disruption, at it’s core PR or ‘Communications’ remains a multidisciplinary field, focused on developing and executing key messaging that’s aligned to a clearly defined outcome. This includes media relations, thought leadership, crisis communication, financial or investor relations, corporate social responsibility, amongst other things.

The dividing lines between the communications and marketing functions are starting to blur as more companies rely on the insights derived from data and analysis to build an integrated marcomms strategy. No matter the structure of your business or team, this document should help guide you through key aspects that need to be covered in developing you traditional or more integrated strategy.

In ‘An introduction to PR and communications strategy’ we explore:

Overview of Public Relations – And the dividing lines between the communications and marketing function

Understanding the media  – What makes news?

Social media –  Meaningful relationships on social channels

Developing your communications strategy – PLUS a ‘Strategy on a Page’

News story checklist –  What you need to know, what you’re trying to achieve and what success looks like

Media intelligence, monitoring and analysis – Demonstrate and evaluate your impact

Working with an agency partner – What to look out for

Download your guide below or if you would like to discuss how we can help you achieve success with your strategy get in touch with us today.

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When it comes to reputation management, understanding your audience perception puts you a step ahead. Learning your audiences frustrations and what drives them, provides insight into how to positively engage with them. As a PR or comms professional, knowing which audience segment impacts or influences your brand reputation is key, especially when sharing messaging.

Reputation is important at the best of times, yet throughout the pandemic, pharmaceutical companies gained the media spotlight whilst their reputation was under scrutiny. As a result, they had to act swiftly and develop new vaccines for immediate and long term use on a global scale.

How do audiences perceive the pharmaceutical industry?

Since the pandemic, we've learned companies are expected to lead. Large companies that failed to take significant actions lost reputation. Those that acted on the opportunities presented to them, flourished. To build or maintain a positive reputation, companies needed to become agile and evolve their operations. 

By using media monitoring and audience intelligence tools, brand reputation and audience perception can be tracked and managed by monitoring traditional and social data, news and industry-specific artificial intelligence (AI). 

Audience perception comes from customer experience, functionality and reputation across mainstream and social media conversations. With social media being an unfiltered platform, it can be hard for brands to control their narrative. However, when you know what your audience is saying about your brand, you can better understand the influential voices and outlets leading the conversations. Monitoring traditional and social media allows you to:

The change in audience sentiment

As an industry that’s responsible for the research, development, production and distribution of medications around the world, having a positive reputation is invaluable.

Pharmaceutical companies frequently use social media to communicate health concerns, new advancements and potential outbreaks. Furthermore, they have been in the spotlight for the past 24 months, helping a society navigate through COVID-19 and out of lockdowns.

The pandemic led to a rapid change in public sentiments over a short span of time. People expressed sentiments of joy and gratitude toward good health, yet sadness and anger at the loss of life and stay at home orders. 

It’s important to understand audience perception toward health-related content, and how your audience perceives the news you share or is shared about you. As the world turned to pharmaceutical companies for vaccines, heightened media coverage meant the public were listening, watching and paying more attention than ever before. This gave those companies the opportunity to redefine what they stand for.

Australian trust in pharmaceutical companies versus global country average. Source: Ipsos and Statista

The role of social media

Historically, the sector had been tarnished by bad publicity. However, the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor 2021 report revealed pharmaceutical companies are now seen as more trustworthy than they were three years ago. 62% of Australians say they trust pharmaceuticals, in comparison to a global country average of 31%.

Social media intelligence plays an important role in how audiences discover, research and share information about a brand or product. Pharmaceutical companies need to continue their connection with their audiences, through storytelling. With this, they can influence a positive narrative and maintain the positive shift in reputation.

During the pandemic, Pfizer dominated social media. On Twitter, Pfizer was the most mentioned company compared to other competitors during the same period. Conversations about the actual brand were not as popular as vaccines, yet social media buzz was inline with Pfizer's consequential milestones and notable events during the pandemic.

Audience perception on twitter

With company mentions of this calibre, there’s no denying the number of conversations involving pharmaceutical companies. Audiences are talking in an unfiltered manner. Whether it's about their credibility, reputation, or the effectiveness of treatments, there’s no escaping the global conversations about the pharmaceutical industry.


Companies cannot afford to ignore conversations that could influence their reputation. Rather than treating it as something beyond their control, using reputation management tools within a media intelligence platform can assist in rolling out a more effective and efficient comms strategies on both traditional and social media.

The power of audience perception

A recent study on Eczema & Atopic Dermatitis by our sister company, Pulsar, shows a topic that is considered an intensely private conversation, has since moved online. An analysis was performed on the relationship between influential figures and wider audiences.

The below chart shows what the engagement metrics look like for the 19 most-engaged with accounts describable as either dermatologist, esthetician, medical doctor, nurse or pharmacist. 

From this chart it tells us dermatologists hold authority in this conversation with three of the highest engagement tallies originating from dermatology accounts. This suggests their audience trust their expertise and are favourably perceived.

Comparing the mentions and engagements of the top 19 influencers, by engagement, in the atopic dermatitis and eczema conversation. Sept 2020- Oct 2022. Source: Pulsar TRAC.

Audience perception on twitter
Audiences engaging in the conversation around both eczema/atopic dermatitis and medicalised skincare on Twitter, set against the more general eczema/atopic dermatitis conversation over the same period. Sept 2020 – Oct 2022. Source: Pulsar TRAC.

The above chart shows a comparison analysis on audiences engaging in conversations around both eczema/atopic dermatitis and medicalised skincare on Twitter. This is set against the more general eczema/atopic dermatitis conversation over the same period (Sept 2020 - Oct 2022).

Healthcare professionals remain a significant presence. Viewing the two audiences alongside each other:

  • Young black communities cohere into the single largest community.
  • LGBTQ+ communities emerge as a far greater presence in the wider conversation. 

From this study, we can see there is a seamless loop between conversation analysis and audience segmentation. This allows for a dynamic view of how each community talks about a topic differently. 

3 pillars to consider when repairing brand reputation

1. Be active and engaged on your social networks to help control the conversations. Turning the mythology around can be difficult, but with a compelling or positive evergreen story, it can change the perception audiences have about your company.

2. Monitor what is being said. Negative news gets more attention. This creates unwanted negative conversations and commentary. Tracking analytics, such as media mentions, share of voice and media outlets with a media intelligence solution allows you to keep a vigilant eye on the type of media coverage you’re receiving. When repairing a negative reputation, at least 35% of the company’s share of voice should involve company representatives.

3. Create a recovery roadmap to deliver on business improvements. Be transparent and authentic when it comes to communicating to customers and stakeholders. This will help with rebuilding trust and repairing your reputation. 

When a company needs to repair their reputation there is a need to use sources of traditional and social media. These will form the pillars of their repair strategy. These pillars can support a comms strategy with real-time data, identifying what's working and what isn’t.

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Reputation Management: How Important is Audience Perception?

Reputation management is crucial for any brand. With unfiltered social media, it is critical to understand your audience perception.

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Image of falling stock prices in a crisis on a blue background

In today's fast-paced world, audience intelligence is critical to crisis management. By understanding who your audience is and what they want, you can more effectively manage a crisis. 

The constantly changing landscape of the internet and social media can make it difficult to stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, the vast amount of data available can be overwhelming and make it difficult to identify the most important information.

Getting a hold of the narrative in the media is crucial. It's inevitable that at some point, your brand will receive negative press. Whether it's a simple misunderstanding or a full-blown crisis, bad press can have a serious impact on your brand's progress. 

Surviving a crisis: Optus & BeReal

Crisis management bar graph of Optus data breach mentions in the media
More than 100,00 mentions of Optus in the media since the data breach announcement.

On 21 September, there was a data breach of telecommunications company Optus where many of its customers’ information were compromised. In response, the company adopted a cautious and controlled approach in delivering its external communications. 

However, the approach allowed the media as well as social media to swirl negative narratives about the company’s “inaction”. In the three weeks after the announcement that its databases had been hacked, there were more than 123,000 mentions of the company in the media. 

In this instance, addressing a crisis quickly to minimize the impact on your business is critical. Seeing a spike in media coverage becomes a good barometer of how negative sentiment can escalate against your brand. 

In another example, rising social media app BeReal suffered a shutdown in September. The app focuses on users being authentic in their posts by prompting them to post pictures of themselves at random times of the day. With almost 15 million downloads of its app in September alone, the shutdown caused a stutter in its communications approach.

Image of BeReal tweet on shutdown
Source: Twitter

With a single tweet acknowledging the shutdown of its service, users were left puzzled as to what had happened. Media queries were left unanswered. This silence by the social media platform led to high-profile news sites such as Yahoo and TechCrunch covering the shutdown. 

This is a highly risky communication approach in an extremely competitive market of social media platforms. Social media giant TikTok rolled out its version of BeReal while Instagram has begun testing the function. 

Image of tweet on BeReal shutdown and crisis management
Source: Twitter

The lack of transparency during a crisis such as a shutdown can lead to negative publicity and a loss of trust in the company. If users are not given clear information about why an app is shutting down, they may feel ‘lost’ and ultimately lose them as users

7 things to consider for your crisis management strategy

While it's impossible to completely avoid negative press, there are steps you can take to manage it and protect your brand's reputation.

1. Acknowledge the crisis & remain transparent

In the hyper-speed age of information-sharing and social media, it's more crucial than ever to be open and honest with your audience. 

When something goes wrong, don't try to hide it - own up to it and let people know what you're doing to fix the problem. 

Being open and transparent will help build trust with your audience and show that you are committed to making things right.

2. If it happens in your industry, it's your crisis

When a crisis strikes your competitor, there is no time to revel in their troubles. On another day, the crisis could happen to your brand and the scrutiny would be as intense as it was for your competitors. 

Take notes of what is happening in the media and quickly facilitate actions to counter any possible scrutiny that might come your way. These actions must be part of your crisis management plan.

3. Anticipate and monitor the crisis

In the high-speed world of audience intelligence, crisis management is essential to protecting your brand. Rapid response and proactive communication are key to mitigating the damage of a negative event. 

By monitoring the conversations online and identifying potential risks, you can take steps to prevent a crisis before it happens. If a crisis does occur, having a plan in place will help you quickly contain the situation and protect your organisation's reputation.

Make sure you have a media monitoring function so that you can monitor the escalating spread of news. Additionally, a social media intelligence platform can identify topical discussions your audience are engaged in.

4. Don't argue, trivialise or act defensively

Crisis management is the process by which an organisation deals with a major disruptive event. It's critical to remember that in a crisis, your audience is seeking reassurance and guidance on the issues.

Therefore, it's essential that you don't argue, trivialise or act defensively. Instead, you need to be calm, informative and decisive in your actions. This will help to instill confidence in your audience and allay the media pressure to give you space to address the crisis.

5. Keep it short and sweet

The message you send out must be brief and informative in order to effectively manage the crisis. Getting involved in a large-scale debate is not advisable because it distracts your focus from finding solutions. 

A brand crisis can be a very difficult situation to navigate. Your audience is interested in what you are going to do next and what will happen to them. It's important to keep your audience updated on what is happening and what you are doing to resolve the issue.

6. Address your most important audience

In the event of a crisis, it's essential to quickly identify your key audiences and address their concerns. For a fast-moving consumer goods or a services organisation, the customer comes first because they are the primary audience of interest. 

It also depends on what type of crisis it's. If there is a workplace safety and security matter, it's better to address your employees first and reassure them on resolving the crisis. 

Ultimately, it's best to identify key audiences and have various sources of information to implement this preemptive approach. From discovering communities in social media narratives to stakeholders of your business, keeping the flows of communication open is a priority.

7. Keep authorities and the media on your side

In the event of a crisis, it's essential to effectively communicate with the authorities and the media. Provide updates to the media and work with authorities to ensure that they are kept informed of the situation. By having a good relationship with them, the crisis is managed effectively and the negative impact on your business is minimised.

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Crisis management with audience intelligence

Crisis management is crucial for any brand. In today’s social media-driven world, a brand crisis can quickly spiral out of control.

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An image of typewriter and notepads on a teal background.

For every conversation that we have, a compelling story becomes the link between you and your audience. When your stories resonate and relate, the audience will take notice. Great storytelling needs to become part of your brand awareness strategy. This strategy becomes more urgent now because the media landscape is constantly evolving.

As stories get told rapidly in traditional media as well as social media, how can your brand carve a niche with your own stories? You can by sharing stories that are authentic and relatable. You can connect with your audience on a deeper level and build a strong relationship with them. Your brand's stories should be told in a way that is consistent with your brand's voice and values. 

By staying true to your brand, you will be able to create a loyal following of customers who believe in what you do. So, how can you make sure your stories stand out?

The relationship between traditional and social media

In recent years, there has been a growing debate about the relationship between traditional and social media. Some believe that traditional media is replacing social media, while others believe that the two can coexist. We believe that the two medias share a symbiotic link and they can work together to deliver the best strategy for your brand.  

There is no doubt that social media has changed the way we consume information. We are now used to getting our news from Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. But traditional media outlets are still important, especially when it comes to storytelling. 

In the recent 2022 Digital Media Report by the University of Canberra, traditional media remains the strongest source of news for Australians. They are more cautious of news found in social media, reflecting their growing concern of misinformation in that realm.

While social media is great for sharing short snippets of information, traditional media is still the best platform for in-depth storytelling and credibility. This is because traditional media outlets have the resources to invest in long-form journalism. They also have experienced reporters who know how to find and tell a good story.

Newspapers with social media as a headline placed on top of a computer
The relationship between social and traditional media

However, we no longer need to wait for the nightly news or the morning paper. We can get our news and information in real-time, from a variety of sources. The power of social media lies in its ability to connect people. We can connect with people all over the world and share our stories with them.

But what is often overlooked is the role that traditional media plays in shaping the stories that we see on social media. Undeniably, social media platforms provide a more immediate and intimate connection to the events and people we care about. 

However, it is the work of traditional media outlets in covering these stories that set the stage for much of the discussion and debate that takes place on social media. In many ways, social media is now the amplifier of your story, not traditional media.

This symbiotic relationship between traditional and social media presents a huge opportunity for brands to amplify their messages to their audiences — raising their forte of storytelling and elevating their brands to another level.

Great storytelling in 5 ways

Now that we know the relationship between traditional and social media, how can brands find ways to anticipate and forecast trends for their industries and markets? In this section, we list five ways your brand can draw interesting insights to create stories relevant to your audiences. 

1. Analyse your audiences

The first thing you must find out is your audience personas. Knowing your audience is essential so that you can produce the kind of story they want to hear. By analysing your audience, you can create better content that resonates with them. This will help you build a stronger connection with your audience and keep them engaged.

You can analyse your audience in three quick ways:

  • Website visitors — Analysing data from your website can help you identify the types of audiences who have already started their discovery journey about your brand.
  • Customer data — This audience is already engaging with your brand so it is critical that you identify the personas found within this subset.
  • Social media — Driven by conversations around your brand and industry, you can find new personas and demographics to cover trending topics.

By understanding different types of personas, you can target your storytelling and messaging to appeal to them. For example, if you are a tech-based company, you will want to target buyers who are interested in innovation and new technology — knowing your audience is key to telling the right story.

2. Identify trending keywords in your industry

In today’s digital realms of search engines and social media, the practice of keyword research is essential for brand storytelling.  Finding and researching relevant keywords  ensures the right people see your content. Identifying keywords is crucial to your business because they are related to queries that users in search engines ask.

By understanding the relationship between keywords and queries, brands can better target their marketing efforts and ensure prospective customers see their message. Insights from social media intelligence can also boost this keyword research process and add current topical trends while delivering relevant queries about your audiences.

Keyword research tools can help your storytelling by listing all the keywords you need to create content for your brand. Better content and engagement with audiences will boost your brand’s ranking in search results. 

3. Monitor mainstream media coverage

As media and technology continue to evolve, it is more important than ever for brands to stay on top of media trends. By monitoring media coverage, brands can ensure that their message is being communicated effectively and reach their target audience. 

In today's competitive landscape, media coverage can make or break a brand. By understanding how people are consuming mainstream media, brands can better tailor their messages and ensure that they are reaching their target audiences. 

Media coverage is another key contributor to brand reputation. Positive media coverage can help to build trust and credibility, while negative media coverage can damage a brand's reputation. Therefore, responding quickly to any negative coverage is the most effective way of handling crisis communications. 

Using a media monitoring platform can help you quickly identify negative media coverage as well as spot positive opportunities to engage with your audiences. Creating content which is relevant and that resonates with your audience will ultimately increase engagement. This engagement in return strengthens your relationship with your audience and builds a healthy reputation.

4. Listen to social media conversations

With 4.6 billion users on social media in 2022 (estimated to rise to 5.8 billion by 2027) conversations can revolve around  many topics at any given time. People are jumping from one topic to another so quickly and several trending topics can dominate the overarching social media landscape. 

Staying on top of these topics is critical for brand storytelling and engaging audiences. Many brands are harnessing the power of technology and artificial intelligence to identify these conversations. 

Word cloud on the dairy industry
Source: Pulsar

The word cloud above reveals the keywords associated with the dairy industry. The larger the word in the cloud represents the bigger emphasis that topic is discussed in social media. Using this information, brands in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry such as dairy can craft more relevant stories for their audiences.

Social media provides a way for people to connect and share their experiences. By engaging in social media conversations, people can learn about new perspectives and stories. Additionally, social media conversations can help build relationships and create a sense of community.

5. Discover topics through Google Trends

It is inescapable now for someone to search for information on Google. A common thing a person would do is search for information on a topic once they read something online or in social media. With Google dominating 83 percent of the search engine market, it is unsurprising that the company’s name has become the new word for searching information. 

Using Google Trends, you can discover trending topics that people are looking for on the search engine. These topics can help in your content creation remain current and relevant. These trending topics reflect what people are interested in and what topics are widely discussed at the moment. You can also use Google Trends to see what topics are popular in different parts of the world.

Google Trends tables of search results on the term cars.
Source: Google Trends

A search on the term "cars" in the past 12 months in Australia reveals a significant trend in the automotive industry — electric cars. The trend shows that residents in Australia are actively looking for more information on electric cars and the topics related to it. And automotive brands such as Tesla and BYD are on the top of people's minds when they search for information on the topic.

For an automotive brand, keeping an eye as well as creating stories on topics revolving electric cars would help reach new audiences and create relevant stories in their markets. With Google being the starting point of most information-searching journeys, brands can jump straight in and make that connection with more targeted content.

What to do next for your brand storytelling

Like Homer, arguably the first globally renowned storyteller, you need a platform to deliver your messages. For the Greek poet, pedestals and tents in ancient Athens provided him the platforms to tell the stories of the Iliad and Odyssey. The next step for your brand is to find that platform. There are a plethora of options to send your message across to your audience.

Here are three things you need to do to get that brand storytelling on point:

1. Select your platform

Find out which platform best serves your brand. Do you have thousands of followers on Instagram? Are website visitors actively engaging with your blogs? Are people commenting on your Facebook profile? The options below are usually the main platforms that most brands use to tell their story.

  • Website - Your first point of impression and contact, your story starts here.
  • Microsite - A unique story or campaign you want to illustrate to your audience.
  • Blogs - Your stories live and breathe in this section of your website.
  • Advertising - Storytelling to reach a wider audience through the most optimal channels.
  • YouTube - Biggest video-based storytelling platform for your brand.
  • LinkedIn - Global professional community site to connect and network with your stories.
  • Facebook - Largest social media community in the world with over 2.9 billion users per month.
  • Instagram - Most popular social media app to share your short-form stories.

2. Create a reason for your audience to contact you

Create your call-to-action (CTA) for your audience. As a brand, you must have a strong CTA in your marketing efforts. A CTA is what drives your audience to take the desired action, whether it's signing up for your email list, making a purchase straight from the point of discovery, or scheduling a demo consultation. 

To create an effective CTA, start by clearly defining what you want your audience to do. Then, create a sense of urgency and make it easy for them to take action by providing a clear and concise path.

3. Tell your story and share as much as you can

The final step would be to share that story with your audience and the general public. There are many ways to share your brand story with your audience. You can use social media, your website, email marketing, and even face-to-face interactions to get your story out there. 

The most important thing is to be clear about who your audience is and what you want to communicate to them. Once you know that, you can tailor your story to fit their needs and interests. If you can tell a compelling story that resonates with your audience, you'll build a strong brand.

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Blog
Storytelling for your brand in 5 ways

In order to engage customers and prospects, you must have brand storytelling. A great story will hook readers in and keep them engaged.

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Photo of stakeholders engaging with insights as part of an organisation strategy

Insights promote action and change with stakeholders

Research, measurement and evaluation needs to promote action with relevant stakeholders including the general public. It’s easy to fall into a trap of measuring something because you think you should or because someone has asked for a few charts on a communication team's activity. But your stakeholder engagement strategy is missing an opportunity to create long term impact with key audiences.   

Stakeholders (internal and external) are an effective resource for driving change and shifting narratives. Stakeholders are a crucial avenue for advocacy of communications activity but are usually not provided with the necessary information. They need motivation to change their behaviour and support your objectives. 

A project that champions this is the Media and Gender research the Isentia insights team produced with Sport New Zealand. This research examines how women are portrayed across sports news in New Zealand and shines a light on where there is work to do. The research itself is engaging and builds rich insight into an area often not looked at on this scale. The most success lies in how research helped motivate and support behaviour change within the primary stakeholder - the media.

Move stakeholders with data-led evidence

Editor of The LockerRoom, Suzanne McFadden, said this study encourages national representation of women in sport,

“A surge in women's sport in NZ media, but a fall in female bylines, highlight the latest Sport NZ study - which also shows where LockerRoom leads the pack.”

Article referencing the research and how it's impacting women in sports coverage by online news publication, RNZ. An example of stakeholder engagement strategy
Article referencing the research and how it's impacting women in sports coverage by online news publication, LockerRoom. An example of stakeholder engagement strategy in action.

Jennie Wylie, Netball New Zealand’s Chief Executive said to Radio New Zealand, that media coverage plays a vital role in female participation in sports,

"What we do know is the cost of our young people not participating in sport, and the gap for young women and girls in that participation, it plays out in terms of media coverage, so if you can't see it, you can't be it."

Sport New Zealand was able to build a stakeholder engagement strategy using data and research that goes beyond numbers. It encourages those at the source of reporting to strive to improve. 

Here are some tips on how to rethink your approach to research and evaluation, so your organisation can do the same: 

4 considerations for your stakeholder engagement strategy

1. Don’t only focus on your own activity

It’s easy to fall into the measurement trap of focusing on your own activity and neglect your audience and sector. It’s important to understand if your communication is successful, but you're missing key opportunities (and threats) that you can only see if your research lens is wider.

2. The value of pre-research

Research performs at its best when used to determine where you should be going instead of only where you’ve been. Bring research into your planning early and give insight into what your audiences already experience as well as their responses and their preferences, so you can tailor your organisation’s activity based on evidence. 

3. Use your evidence to generate conversations

Engage all your stakeholders in the research process and as early as possible to increase their investment in the results, regardless if it means changing their own behaviour. The more measurement and research is collaborative and unites stakeholders within a common purpose, the more effectively it will spur change.

4. Measure more than once

Changing audiences and information requires your organisation’s research lens to focus on what's relevant to your objectives and audiences. 

measurement lens graphic for stakeholder engagement strategy.
A blue and white gradient graphic

Talk to the experts about how Isentia insights can refocus your stakeholder engagement strategy

Ultimately, research should help drive conversations, and in those conversations is where you can create change. It doesn’t always work the first time, so be persistent - it’s worth it! 

Contact us to discuss how we can create a tailored measurement programme that supports your goals.

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Thought Leadership
A targeted stakeholder engagement strategy in 4 steps

To have an impactful stakeholder engagement strategy you must use the right data-led insights to drive interest in your objectives.

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