A Blog Series Part I: A Public Relations Revolution and the Change at its Core—Big Data


The Strategic Research Conference hosted by the Institute for Public Relations and PRIME Research on June 9th in New York City prompts this introductory installment of a four-part series on Big Data and its impact on public relations.  Click here to read Part II.


By Mark Weiner, CEO, PRIME Research – North America

Sarab Kochhar, PhD, IPR’s Director of Research

The Public Relations Big Data Revolution - InfographicPublic Relations as we’ve known it is undergoing remarkable change. In addition to the creativity, relationship-building and communications acumen with which PR is usually associated, data, statistical expertise and research-based insights have emerged as essential assets for planning, strategy development and evaluation. As an increasingly common element in on-going reputation programs, as well as short-term campaigns, research is an indispensable element in the profession’s most successful and highly recognized efforts.

Given the research-driven transformation currently underway, most communications professionals and the organizations for whom they work must assemble the tools and talent needed to manage programs for optimal performance.

In this introductory post, and throughout this blog series, we will draw from the recently released Irreversible: The Public Relations Big Data Revolution to discuss Big Data in many different ways, not only covering what it is, but also sources and purpose of Big Data, the relationship between Big Data and public relations, and how it can be used and applied within your organization.

So what exactly is Big Data?

Big Data is driven by advanced methods which harness technology to enable large volumes of data to enable more fully integrated decision-making. While many may perceive the value of Big Data to be the large quantity of information it provides, it is rather the potential insights which can be derived from the data that are invaluable. These insights are not provided by the data alone, but instead through critical thinking and interpretation of the data. When developed, processed and executed, these insights aid organizations in better understanding the attitudes, preferences and behaviors of their target markets.

Many challenges from Big Data are rooted within the way data are integrated. As we will explore later on in the series, there are different types of data: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured. Social and journalistic content are sources of external unstructured data. Within organizations the majority of data are unstructured—like emails, books, and documents—which can be the most costly and time consuming to reference. On the other end of the spectrum, structured data—like an excel spreadsheet—are much easier and quicker to analyze. Regardless of the cost and time consumption, organizations must find ways to efficiently and accurately understand the data to improve operations within the organization.

With the rise of Big Data, public relations practitioners must learn and continue to adapt to utilize the data and positively influence strategy and decision-making within the business. This development and understanding of Big Data can help organizations achieve objectives and create more efficient strategies and tactics for everyday operations—further proving the positive effects PR has within business operations while improving PR performance.

Big Data fosters growth within the public relations profession, allowing practitioners to go further than traditional communication initiatives by enabling better understanding of past performance and improved assessment of the current operating environment, one can set more concise objectives, develop better strategies, create and execute higher potential campaigns and evaluate performance for continuous improvement.

The data will not create meaning for itself

In the early stages of Big Data organizations placed importance on the amount of data collected, and as with any digital transformation priorities and assumptions change as knowledge grows. With time, the focus of Big Data shifted away from the volume of data collected to focus instead on the prospective value derived from the data itself.

Big Data is at the core of nearly every digital transformation, and the need to collect, strategize, analyze, and act upon its insights will continue to remain a top priority for organizations striving to achieve more fully integrated decision-making.

Visit us next week in the second part of our series to explore the different sources of Big Data.


Irreversible: The Public Relations Big Data Revolution,” is a white paper primer by Mark Weiner of PRIME Research and Sarab Kochhar, PhD of the Institute for Public Relations which introduces essential information about Big Data and how it is redefining public relations profession.

Sarab Kochhar, PhD, is the Director of Research for the Institute for Public Relations, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to research in, on and for public relations.

Mark Weiner is the Chief Executive Officer of PRIME Research, an international research-based communications consultancy working with many of the world’s most admired companies and brands.

To learn more about research and public relations, the Strategic Research Conference sponsored by The Institute for Public Relations and PRIME Research will be held in New York on June 9.  To learn more and to register, click here.

PRIME June Conference

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