5 Big Ways Big Data Is Changing PR

world's big dataDon’t look now, but “big data” is on a collision course with your company. And from a PR standpoint, that could spell disaster. Especially if you’ve failed to recognize the powerful role big data can play in helping PR professionals gain useful insights, formulate better communications strategies, and make more informed decisions for their clients and companies. Ready or not, big data is bearing down, and its impact will change public relations forever. So brace yourself and take a look at 5 big ways big data is changing PR:

A Shift to Data-Driven PR

With mountains of data pouring in from multiple channels, big data is creating a major shift toward data-driven marketing and public relations. The challenge is to find practical ways to refine raw data and make sense of it all. That’s where big data platforms such as Apache Hadoop come in. With the ability to manage and analyze data more efficiently and in real time, PR pros can gain new insights that will help them better serve the needs of their clients and brands.

Don’t believe just how fast big data is growing? Check out this Big Data counter and see for yourself!

A Push for Analytics Skills

Traditionally, PR data has been something to measure and monitor. But big data has changed all of that. Going forward, the success of PR programs will hinge on deeper analytics and insights. In order to gain actionable insights, PR professionals must become more proficient at interpreting data and statistics. This doesn’t mean it’s time to go back to school to earn a PhD in mathematics. But it is time to move beyond the basics. In addition, new applications are emerging that can help make data analytics more relevant and user-friendly. Still, as great as these big data tools may be, a clear understanding of the methodologies used to analyze data is a must.

More Creative PR Programs

While many believe that a bigger shift toward data analytics will only stifle creativity—making everything about numbers—the ability to manage and analyze data in real-time actually unleashes creativity. Take Canadian Tire, for example. In 2011, the company used social media analytics company Sysomos’ Heartbeat tool to light an amazing 30-foot tall Christmas Spirit Tree. Monitoring social media in real-time, the tool analyzed social messages for 50 keywords that carried a positive connotation toward Christmas. The positive mentions were then channeled through an API to a machine that transformed the Christmas data into an unforgettable light show. With these kinds of real-time capabilities, big data provides the opportunity to create groundbreaking PR programs that get results.

New Applications

Savvy PR professionals can apply big data to new applications and scenarios. One example is crisis communications. In today’s connected world, it’s not uncommon for people and brands to come under attack by so-called online “experts.” Through social media, these assaults can take on a life of their own, often triggering agencies to answer with retaliatory responses that could potentially backfire. However, by using real-time data analysis to monitor the direction of the trend line of the issue over time, clearer heads can prevail in planning appropriate strategies, which may include doing nothing and just letting things run their course. By monitoring messages and trends in real-time, potentially damaging assaults can also be identified and prevented before they occur, which is the optimum scenario.

More Effective Messaging

Effective messaging is all about creating the right message for the right target group. big data analytics can help PR pros gain a clearer understanding of who their customers really are and the most effective channels to communicate to them, along with identifying the top influencers who will help spread the message. And with the ability to integrate different sources of data, such as data from loyalty programs, CRM systems and social media, a true multidimensional profile of the customer will emerge to help create a more personal, relevant and targeted message.

With the ability to gain actionable insights, launch more creative and targeted campaigns and tweak them in real-time to maximize results, PR professionals who embrace big data stand to gain a strong competitive advantage. In addition, with hard data to quantify the success of their campaigns, PR has a valuable new tool for evaluating ROI.

By Michele Nemschoff

Michele Nemschoff is Vice President of Corporate Marketing at MapR Technologies. Michele received an MBA from Stanford University and a BS in Economics from The Wharton School.

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