In this blog post Deborah analyses how Big Data technologies can help PR practitioners improve the service that they offer to clients.
Data presented as an Infograph paints a thousand words:
What are the benefits of the data analysis for PR practitioners?
Big Data has been readily adopted into everyday language for at least a few years now. However, its actual use in the world of public relations remains limited. In this article I will explore how PR agencies can use Big Data technologies to improve the following four key areas: storytelling, measurement, PR in real time and business development.
Images courtesy of Pannawat/Freedigitalphotos.net
Earlier this year I pointed out that Big Data is one of the 5 PR trends to look out for in 2016. The interest in Big Data, and in particular the technologies that gather, store, analyse and use large volumes of data, is constantly growing. Just take a look at Google Trends (a tool that uses Big Data to analyse how often a term is searched on the Internet) to confirm this.
That said is there really a huge interest for Big Data? How many of us are actually using the technologies in our everyday working practices. Can Big Data solve everything? I would argue that while it may not be able to solve all the problems of the world, despite the fact that the UN is using it to drive the development of the Global Pulse initiative, Big Data will change the way communications and public relations agencies work, if it hasn’t already.
Searches for “Big Data” across the world from 2004 to 2016.
Source: Google Trends
Four key areas where Big Data can improve PR
Nowadays most major global corporations already use Big Data in a variety of ways: either to increase sales by providing personalized shopping tips to customers or to determine which colours will be the next season´s trend. And the rest of the companies are adopting the trend quickly: according to the Gartner study, it is estimated that 75% of companies will invest or are expecting to invest in Big Data in 2016. Are PR agencies included in this %? If not, they should be, as there are areas in which Big Data can really improve our job: storytelling, measurement, PR in real time and business development. Here’s how.
Storytelling: a new way to tell stories
Big Data allows us to get and process information that PR agencies can use for crafting campaigns for clients. This information can be obtained from different sources: our own or our clients’ data, raw data from official data institutions like National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística), or data provided by consultants, institutions, etc.
The Washington Post analysed how population´s mood evolved throughout the year according to the search in Google by our use of words such a «anxiety» or«depression». Source: Google News Lab.
To obtain this information is not a difficult task; most of it is on the Internet. The key is to know how to analyse it and present it, for example with interactive Infographics. To corrupt a well known expression, data presented as an Infograph paints a thousand words. In that sense, Big Data is perfect for content marketing. A great example of this is Google News Lab, which offers tools to the media to represent data or to tell stories which can go from favourite recipes for Thanksgiving Day to the migration of sharks.
Measurement: beyond the AVE
As we have already reflected on this some time ago, the public relations sector keeps seeking a measurement system that could replace the quantitative indicators such as the Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE). I would argue that Big Data could be the solution to this challenge. Combining the agencies´ database with the media and the social networks metrics, Big Data allows us to:
– Identify the public we want to reach during the campaign (not only journalists, but also bloggers, influencers, etc.);
– Create personalised messages for each group or niche of the campaign (hyper segmentation);
– Establish quantitative and qualitative objectives to determine the success of the campaign;
– Measure the results according to these objectives.
A good example of Big Data applied to measurement is IBMs’ Watson Trend tool. This application analyses millions of social conversations to show the consumers’ opinion about a product, service or brand. Wouldn´t it be great to be able to present reports like these to our clients?
Public Relations in real time
Big Data also allows us to manage the public relations campaigns in real time. Collecting and processing the available information on the Internet enables us to know which journalists, bloggers or Youtubers mention our clients; to detect users´ comments to answer them; to adjust the messages and the actions based on the feedback received; or to make a small-scale testing of a concept before launching a campaign or adjusting it on a global level.
For example, Barclays used social media metrics provided by an agency before launching a new financial product (an app to send money). The team responsible of the campaign monitored negative mentions in social media to improve the product and communicate the changes before the complaints provoked a reputation crisis.
Management and business development
Big Data can also improve the internal efficiency of PR agencies and our capacity to create and to take advantage of the new business opportunities. All of us accumulate an increasing amount of information about the market, customers, media contacts, etc. This information could be put to a much better use if it were accessible from a single tool (eliminating the “noise” of the unused data, which occupies the space on servers or clouds, hampering search and causing errors).
For example, we can use the information we already have to create a 360º profile of journalists, bloggers and influencers, which allows us to know not only which media they publish for and what email they have, but also what events they have attended, which questions they have asked, which spokesperson they have interviewed, even when it’s their birthday, etc. Big Data can also be very useful for the business development. For example, the statistics of our web and social networks can be useful to detect customers interested in our services that have not yet contacted us; research of upcoming trends among consumers allows us to identify which market segments create opportunities to attract new customers; and using industry sources, he media, etc. we can monitor the competition.
How do we start to use Big Data in PR?
Big Data sets out major challenges for Public Relations agencies because it implies not only changing the way we work, but also the type of the service we offer to our clients. Nevertheless, it is a trend and that we have to start adapting to, if not the competition will get there before us.
The first step is to introduce internal policies which plan to manage the information we have Secondly, we have to learn how to process this information, either by improving our analytical technologies skills or by incorporating data analyst experts (a profile that will soon be very common in PR agencies if it’s not already). Then, we have to invest in tools that apply the data and the agency´s knowledge to the mentioned areas (storytelling, measurement, PR in real time, management and business development, etc.). And finally, we have to understand the value of data, rather than just taking advantage of only part of its potential. In conclusion, we have to step from “Small Data” to “Big Data” because when it comes to data, now’s the time to start thinking big.