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Bradley Manning for CMO: The Value of Sharing Data

07/08/2013 17:28 BST | Updated 07/10/2013 10:12 BST

One of the key news stories over recent weeks has been the trial, and eventual guilty verdict, of Bradley Manning - the US soldier accused of leaking information to Wikileaks. There has been a large campaign describing the treatment of Bradley Manning as inhumane, stating that such a large potential punishment is not warranted for someone who has not killed or harmed anyone.

From a marketing perspective, the trial has in fact been an educational process - not given by the US government, but given by Bradley Manning himself. The lesson? That the sharing of data is valuable, educational and that the process should be respected, not punished.

Marketers, however, need to be slightly more delicate with whom they share their data with than Bradley Manning. Instead of contacting Julian Assange, they should consider focussing on colleagues, agencies and consumers:

Manning's Marketing Message #1: Keep your friends close, but keep your colleagues well informed

The charge: allowing individuals to become unique guardians of information

Even in the smallest of marketing teams, information eventually becomes the owned property of an individual, or group of individuals. This typically happens due to the expert knowledge and inevitable nervousness around releasing information held by the 'keeping individual'. However, by sharing data, entire marketing teams will gain a more holistic view of a business and its customers and this will allow strategy building to be more encompassing, overarching and relevant.

The verdict: Just as decisions should be fuelled by data and insight, internal communications should be fuelled by knowledge sharing. Ensure data streams have a known go-to person and encourage 'keeping individuals' to share by enforcing the ethos that that they can increase the worth of themselves and their business unit to an organisation by imparting the data they 'own' around a business.

Manning's Marketing Message #2: Increase the value of your allies

The charge: keeping all your data stored internally

The marketing industry is abuzz with the term 'big data'. The idea being that large volumes of data that have historically been found in the deep ether of businesses can now be used to optimise marketing strategy and communications. This information is of equal, if not greater use, to businesses' external agencies, which can use their objectivity to integrate 'big data' into their work. Furthermore, by sharing internal data this way, businesses will allow external agencies to validate their own work and actually substantiate the investment being made in them. However, often businesses seem reluctant to share data streams such as: CRM, media, social conversations and sales information.

The verdict:Your agencies are business allies - strengthen their work through internally generated data. In the process you are improving their output to you (therefore increasing the value of your investment) and also educating them on the intricacies of your business - adding to their equity as a valued partner.

Manning's Marketing Message #3: Use data to satisfy curious consumers

The charge: despite being the topic of their data, businesses reveal very little of it to consumers

The digital era has fuelled consumer curiosity and scepticism. Consumers now like to know how businesses make their decisions and why they are acting in a certain way. If this curiosity goes unanswered, consumers are likely to lose affinity for a business or brand - likely due to a feeling of lacking proximity and trust. Conversely, if businesses communicate the data that drives decisions to consumers, so as to put meaning to their actions, they will be seen as transparent and diligent decision makers. Additionally, as frugal and austere times continue, consumers are remaining cautious about claims brands and businesses make. As a result of this we are seeing more adverts supporting their claims with reference to research within them. As more communications do this, consumers will expect to see such B2C information sharing being the norm.

The verdict: When making bold claims through either a corporate or brand voice piece, support your actions, where necessary, with the fuel the drives them. This may be through referencing survey findings at the bottom of a print ad for a new product or a more formalised press release. Either way, let consumers know you are making decisions that are fuelled by knowledge, not gut instinct.

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