PR Debate: Big Data vs. Big Intuition

Has all the focus on Big Data steered smart and experienced PR people away from one of our greatest strengths – our intuition? This will be just one of the big issues tackled at the Council of PR Firms Annual Critical Issues Forum in New York on October 23.  The speaker, Teddy Goff, Partner, Precision Strategies, led the digital strategy team that helped get President Obama elected twice by connecting the people to the politician online. His team was responsible for President Obama’s massive online presence and he is part of a consulting firm that seeks to do the same for others.

We don’t have the “data” on Goff’s talk yet, but we can “intuit” that it will address some of the following burning questions:

How to harness Big Data. Even the name is overwhelming! If you have a “small” client, can they benefit from Big Data too? We’d like to see some concrete examples of actionable use of truly large data in real-world PR campaigns, like using information to help determine social influencers; further segmenting campaigns; performing A/B campaign testing; and evaluating media and social channels. Determining what you’re after will help you decide what data to start tracking.

How to interpret it once you get it. Are there tricks of the trade to make terabytes less terrifying or minutiae more manageable? We’d like someone to explain the tools that are out there to process the information in a way that is palatable to what we actually do not jargon-filled gibberish.

The Yin and Yang of it. There must be a balance between mining this data, cold and analytical, but often brilliant and precise, along with PR wisdom, experience, and gut feelings, however warm and fuzzy.

The Forum, sponsored by CPRF, the association comprised of America’s 100 leading public relations firms, will explore how we can move brands past “disruption” to engage more fully in people’s lives. We’re proud to be a member of CPRF, and we hope to see you there. If you can’t attend, we’ll update you, or you can follow the action at hashtag: #PRGenome

Is "Big Data" In PR's DNA?

“Back then, I was a geek. Now all of a sudden I have a sexy job.” – Claudia Perlich, Chief Data Scientist at Dstillery and panelist at the upcoming Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum

The rise of digital media and availability of ever-more granular data about how we use it have transformed marketing, but public relations has been a laggard in the data revolution. Yes, we know about data-driven marketing, most of us have promoted clients with a “Big Data” angle, but many of us remain in a state that a former client used to call DRIP (Data-Rich, Insight-Poor.) Public relations has an opportunity to take advantage of the democratization of data, but how? Is data really in our DNA?

The data debate will be part of The Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum, “The PR Genome Project,” on October 23, and not a moment too soon. As the lines between PR, advertising, and digital marketing blur, most communications professionals use data in our daily work, but we’re not even close to leveraging its full potential. In our view, here are just a few of the promising areas for PR practitioners.

Web analytics. Most PR pros are comfortable with social analytics tools and conversion as an important metric for measuring the impact of earned media placements, so it’s an excellent starting point. But a social dashboard or site traffic report doesn’t inform strategy.

Defining our audience. This is where harnessing and interpreting the vast amounts of available consumer data can offer insights that define the people we’re trying to reach and enable more precise messaging. As Perlich, the data scientist, told Mediapost, “I am not a generic 35-45 year old soccer mom and as such, should not be targeted with baking products. I am much more than that.” The old demographic segments are dead. We’re all much more than that.

Influencer research. As with the customers we’re trying to engage, we often tap influencers through a mix of social web search and intuition. But deeper data can glean insights that will help focus the spend of time and energy on those that really pay off.

Crisis preparation. Analysis of data from customer service calls, social media complaints, and online chatter can pinpoint customer dissatisfaction in advance of a full-blown crisis situation or identify pain points before they become serious.

For our industry, the promise of data is not just in the insights it offers and the validation of measurement tools and standards, but in how it can help elevate the role of corporate communications.  Data-driven insights that result in true strategic counsel for the company, in a way that cuts across marketing, reputation, and internal communications, can change the essence of what we do and drive the skills and insights that shape future programs. And there’s no more critical issue for PR than that.