Here's How to Apply Big Data in PR

CommPRO Global, Inc.  |

In previous installments of our PR/Big Data series, we explored the definition, the sources and the methods for integrating Big Data into public relations programming. In this final chapter, we discuss how communicators apply Big Data to objectives setting, strategy development, campaign planning and execution, evaluation and continuous improvement. The premise for research-driven public relations is that decisions based on data-derived insights are more likely to succeed than decisions based solely on past experience, conventional wisdom or “gut instinct.” The insights discovery process requires three elements: critical thinking and statistical acumen; subject matter expertise; and access to tools—as identified by Dr. Philip B. Stark, Professor and Chair of Statistics at The University of California, Berkley and illustrated below. Success depends on the combination of all three: to omit a single element spells failure, as shown in the diagram below:

Expanding Upon Traditional PR Functions

Enabled to reveal greater context and intelligence, public relations within a Big Data environment reveals the degree to which communications explicitly or implicitly affected the enterprise overall. Big data is elevating traditional public relations functions to foster growth, efficiency and efficacy.

The textbook public relations process – and the sequence reflected in every major PR awards program—begins with a landscape analysis followed by objectives setting, strategy development, tactics and evaluation for continuous improvement. Data unleashes the power implicit in public relations by going beyond the limitations of a singular PR data stream to tie into your business results and your competitors’ along with general economic indicators, societal trends and other data sources.

  • In objectives setting, Big Data allows PR practitioners to extend beyond traditional measures like clip counting to seek goals which directly impact the organization’s success—including generating revenue and profits, retaining the best talent, improving customer loyalty and informing product development, as well as other applications.
  • Through strategy development, Big Data enables more direct targeting and more salient messaging based on proven concepts developed by tracking which messages work and don’t work on the target audience in driving business results. With this knowledge, organizations can invest in those actions which are most likely to achieve the most beneficial outcome.
  • For tactical ideation and execution, Big Data helps to inform which events and campaigns are most and least likely to work based on what will drive the desired business result. Rather than harnessing creativity, data and research actually foster the creative process by enabling the PR team to focus on those endeavors which lead to positive business outcomes.
  • During the evaluation step, Big Data findings assess what worked and what didn’t. Practitioners use the findings in two ways: to demonstrate PR’s contribution to the business and to improve performance going forward. Beyond public relations applications, PR data can help to inform others areas of the organization by showing either directly or indirectly. In particular, PR data adds context to other data streams by showing what environmental factors influence affecting the organization overall. What’s more, data-driven public relations can learn from past performance to both predicate and predict future outcomes.

Big Data Initiatives: Planning for Success

While Big Data is an invaluable asset, practitioners must remember that data alone do not answer “why.” To explore the “why,” social and traditional media analysis can provide context to go beyond what happened, and determine why it occurred and what should be done about it. It is important for practitioners to evolve and balance traditional public relations and develop new skills surrounding Big Data to enable organizational success.

Planning is critical to this success. Organizations should make preparations before introducing Big Data initiatives and ask the following questions to better succeed:

  • What is the goal of data-driven communication?
  • How will the data and findings help achieve objectives?
  • What are the sources of the data?
  • How does Big Data apply now?
  • In what ways will data applications interact/interrelate with others?
  • What can be done to ensure data alignment?
  • Do you have the required personnel for critical thinking and statistical analysis, and who will lead the initiative/conduct the analysis?
  • What can be done to create an environment that encourages discovery and learning through data?
  • How much investment will be required?
  • Do the intended findings warrant the investment?

It’s been said that the dinosaurs would be alive today if they could only predict the weather. Public relations practitioners who adapt and learn new skills to best accommodate Big Data will have continued growth, and sadly, those who ignore the change and emerging importance of technology, science and data in PR, will disappear.

Check out the original article at CommPRO here.

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