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Modern marketing is more data-driven than ever. Insightful data is the anchor in a well-oiled thought leadership machinery. Executives’ speeches need well-researched data points from credible sources. Data become quickly becomes obsolete unless constantly updated. This writing template covers an outline of what to cover in a spreadsheet for tracking foundational facts that is easy to update.
The nature of foundational fact tracking
Tracking foundational facts you need in marketing and external communication can be done ad-hoc as needs occur or proactively as a continuous process. In the ad-hoc approach, you hunt down facts when needed for an article, presentation, or interview. Often a high-pressure job, a chaotic dash towards concise timelines with high internal exposure and many providers of factual elements. Once completed, few know where the facts came from, and you start from square zero the next time the opportunity occurs.
The alternative is to structure foundational fact-seeking as a proactive workflow. You start with an idea of which categories of facts you need and a collection of sources of information and insights. You also need sources where the credibility and publication cadence match your business needs. Excellent tracking of foundational facts is teamwork. Once implemented, you will get consistency in the numbers you use externally, reduce the amount of chaos work and reduce the search time for basic facts. This approach can scale to the needs large corporations have.
Categorizing your strategic facts serve the purpose of guiding fact-finding and getting an overview of what you have already collected and where you have gaps.
Collecting facts initially and later finding facts in your collection benefit from an exemplary structure of categories. Aim for categories representing what you expect to talk about frequently. 20-30 categories are sufficient to cover the needs of a corporation. Search for inspiration at a magazine store and its magazine categories if you struggle to define suitable ones.
Once you have a solid baseline, categories are stable, and a yearly review/refresh is a good rule of thumb.
The facts you look for connect to a relevant conversation topic. For timely topics, you can expect to find recently updated facts. Typical topics are leading indicators for market growth and metrics used to describe competitiveness and market positions.
Topics evolve faster than categories, and the selection of topics and their relevance is a good indicator of the maturity of your fact-tracking job. Expect quarterly topic reviews as a baseline.
Measure & Metric
The actual data point relies on a measure and how it is measured. The metric used can vary between markets, and you can keep them together as one data field or split them into two cells.
The cadence for how often you want to update measures varies substantially; for some, yearly updates are enough, and some might need monthly updates. Aim to be aligned with the cadence at which your source updates.
There is high potential to add value to your audiences and provide insights into why a fact matters. When you can explain the “so what” for a fact and put its size with something everybody understands, you are onto valuable insights. Never assume an audience to grok petaflops gigahertz and terawatts and why they should care.
Aspire to formulate one insightful comment for each fact you track.
Expect challenges to all facts you present regarding the source’s trustworthiness and validity. You also face a choice between using open sources, where anyone can access the source data, or if you include data published behind paywalls, where you purchase the right to disclose facts.
Start with open sources such as trusted industry organization reports, government statistics, major ecosystem stakeholders’ reports, and papers from consulting firms and market analysts.
Track when each fact was published to support you in making judgment calls if you can trust it or if there are reasons to expect updated numbers to be available.
A good approach is to track your top recurring sources separately so you know the publication frequency and update accordingly.
Subject matter expert – for fact validation
Collecting and maintaining facts in an enterprise could involve at least as many people as you have categories. You need to have a go-to person, not just a responsible organization, for each fact to eliminate all doubts if they occur.
List the name of your lifeline for each fact. Someone who you expect to read about any updates before anyone else and who has subject matter expertise to support you in formulating the insight piece.