NRECA (the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) is a trade organization that represents the interests of over 900 not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Its leaders knew they needed to strengthen NRECA’s data and analytics to drive more strategic decision-making—particularly in terms of how they deploy digital communications to engage members and policy makers. Parsons TKO partnered with NRECA to create a custom Analytics Framework for the association, based on a rigorous assessment of digital strengths, opportunities and needs.
This framework established a strategic vision for the use of data at NRECA. It included a suite of purpose-built analytics reports tied to keymeetings and production processes. On the technical side, PTKO offered hands-on implementation support for numerous data changes and engineering fixes that the framework identified to improve data quality and reporting. Overall, NRECA’s engagement with PTKO led to swift improvement in the organization’s SEO positioning, its ability to track social media campaigns, and its technical data infrastructure. These wins, paired with careful attention to change management, have positioned the association for long-term success in planning and executing measurably effective digital strategies.
Like most associations, NRECA seeks to consistently increase the value it provides to its members. To this end, NRECA wanted to better understand how its digital investments were delivering meaningful value to stakeholders—and whether any were missing the mark. It had seen a recent increase in traffic to its web properties, but didn’t fully understand who was engaging with them online, or why they were doing so. Nor did it know which actions to take (and in what sequence) in order to make more strategic use of its digital assets.
Before NRECA could optimize its use of data and analytics to meet business objectives, it faced a number of unique challenges and capacity constraints:
- Vague success criteria for digital communications. NRECA did not have a deep understanding of its web and social media audiences due to incomplete and, at times, misleading data. As a result, its digital performance indicators were vague and not aligned with strategic business goals.
- Data not integrated into decision-making processes in a structured or systematic way. NRECA did not yet make strategic use of data dashboards or analytics reports to inform key management decisions, which meant valuable insights were locked away in reports that weren’t accessible to staff.
- Limited insight into how policy-makers, media, and other key stakeholder groups interacted with NRECA online. NRECA knew the total number of visitors to its website, but lacked a clear way to segment this audience into relevant subgroups (e.g. members, government officials, journalists, etc.).
- Effectiveness of digital strategies and campaigns not consistently measured. Lack of clear governance protocols meant that campaigns were not always tracked using industry best practices (or emerging practices, in the case of our solution), which limited their ability to measure the impact of their outreach.
Parsons TKO partnered with NRECA on a three-month engagement to design and support implementation of a practical analytics framework for the organization. The intensive, hands-on engagement included many methods of gathering data and sharing key insights:
Data Diagnostic Report: Identifying Key Opportunities
In order to build an enduring analytics framework, stakeholders first needed to share the same understanding of NRECA’s data strengths and improvement opportunities. To this end, PTKO developed a detailed data and analytics “report card” for NRECA. The diagnostic report assessed the state of Google Analytics and SEO implementation across NRECA websites. It also evaluated the robustness and functionality of the network’s social media data reporting. Overall, the report found that many of NRECA’s core site features were configured well, and it identified a handful of areas in which enhancements would create long-term impact.
Analytics Framework: Setting Out the Plan for Action
Based on this diagnostic work, and PTKO’s analysis of NRECA data practices and processes, PTKO designed a comprehensive Analytics Framework. It set out a broad vision for the use of data at NRECA, and described how to optimize analytics for digital strategies and organizational goals. It also focused on the practical details of implementation by identifying and prioritizing specific technology changes that set up NRECA for success.
NRECA’s analytics framework included the following components:
A suite of new Analytics Reports
In order to make data-driven decisions, the client needed easy access to custom dashboards that display data insights that directly relate to business objectives. As a result, PTKO proposed a suite of purpose-built analytics reports to help NRECA evaluate the effectiveness of its communications, optimize and fine-tune audience engagement, improve its web user experience, and inform editorial decisions. PTKO designed these proposed reports to integrate seamlessly with existing meetings and production processes.
Sample Analytics Dashboard: Social Media Intelligence Tool
A data definition and design plan
This plan spelled out the specific data changes needed to form a robust backbone of data that sheds light on NRECA’s organizational goals. Recommendations included
A detailed list of engineering tasks to implement
Based on the data definition and design plan, this list outlined and prioritized specific engineering capabilities needed to:
- Identify desired audience segments on NRECA’s websites
- Implement SEO to boost organic rankings
- Expand capabilities for campaign performance analysis
- Ensure best practices in data collection
- Increase visibility of marketing campaigns
PTKO gave follow-up technical support to implement some of the highest-priority items on this list.
Recommendations for change management
A culture of analytics begins with people, not technical systems. In order to make full use of an improved data architecture, PTKO equipped the client with insights on how to host data-driven conversations designed to improve business performance, and how to create and sustain behavior change among employees. As a concrete step in this change management process, PTKO worked with NRECA senior staff to develop a holistic process for identifying relevant engagement metrics for digital communications.
The initial audit of NRECA’s technical infrastructure unearthed many unexpected issues that compromised the quality of its data. Based on this work, PTKO provided immediate implementation support for a number of immediate fixes, and equipped NRECA to make other data changes themselves. Examples of data improvements include:
- SEO optimization changes that immediately improved NRECA’s positioning in organic search results
- A new social dashboard that enhanced NRECA’s ability to track the performance of its social campaigns
- New governance protocols for social media that ensured consistent link tagging and tracking – enabling accurate measurement of campaign results