The PR Big Data Blog Series Part II – Examining the Source of Big Data: Internal, Shared and External Data Streams


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


By Mark Weiner, CEO, PRIME Research – North America

Sarab Kochhar, PhD, IPR’s Director of Research

The public relations profession is evolving, due in part to the Big Data revolution that makes data analysis essential to strategy development and organizational evaluation. To learn more about this revolution and what Big Data is, catch up by reading our first post in this series.

The Sources of Big Data

Throughout this post we will cover and explore Big Data’s three main sources: internal, shared and external data streams. While these data streams are diverse in origin, each is an asset to help guide public relations practitioners in business decision-making.

The Public Relations Big Data Revolution - InfographicInternal Data Streams
Internal data streams come from many “controlled” channels within your organization.  For public relations practitioners, internal streams include your website, company/brand-sponsored social media, press releases, or blog. Outside of communications-driven data streams, the organization also tracks data related to revenues, transactions, costs, inventory, overhead, efficiency and profitability. Each source permits data collection, and because these internal data streams are owned by the organization they constitute a more highly controllable environment—allowing easy access to what information being independently collected and analyzed for the purpose of more fully integrated investigation.

Shared Data Streams

Shared data streams are only semi-controllable because they are acquired through sources accessible to not only your organization, but also others through internal and third-party data streams. Although only semi-controllable, these data streams are equally valuable and, when managed correctly, may give insight to improve the organizations performance.  For professional communicators, these data may be gathered from an event, publicity, sponsorships or industry research.

External Data Streams

External data streams look outward to information where an organization has virtually little to no control. These data streams are critical to business and public relations processes in regards to landscape analysis, objectives-setting, strategy development, tactics and execution and evaluation. Although there is virtually no control of external data streams such as outside research, academic studies, organic social media conversations, and the news, the data provided will aid in understanding how the enterprise can best operate based on the current state of its external environment.

In most cases, these data streams are concrete, but sometimes can evolve to move from one type to another within an organization. For example, if an organization holds public external survey data that may be applied to public relations, this external data becomes internal after it is repurposed.

Breaking Down Big Data: Public Relations Data Streams

Big data is often too large to be managed, captured, and processed by common business software. However, Big Data is made up of many “Small Data” streams, of which public relations data is one example.

When public relations practitioners analyze Big Data situations, content and context must be considered. Through content analysis combined with attitudinal and behavioral research, factors (categorized as outputs, outtakes, and outcomes in the Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Research (3rd ed.) by Don Stacks, Ph.D., and Shannon Bowen, Ph.D) can be examined.

Content Analysis
Content analysis aids in the examination and understanding of outputs. In the realm of Big Data, content analysis is also known as “text analytics,” which is the most popular form of data collection among professional communicators. Throughout this process, relevant content is extracted from all forms of media (social, traditional, and even text from video audio) to create sets of valuable information.  Once this content is converted to data, and undergoes methodical expert analysis, it can become vital to the organization, showing actionable intelligence and predictive analytics. 

Content analysis generates multiple “Small Data” streams: quantity, quality, relative performance, and impact potential.  These small data streams give insight to the volume and reach of information; tone and sentiment of the message delivery; results versus objectives against competitors; published content versus earned and organic content; and the likelihood that someone will watch, hear, or read the content.

Attitudinal and Behavioral Research

Altitudinal research and behavioral research allow the assessment of outtakes and outcomes, respectively. Attitudinal and behavioral research is usually achieved through qualitative and quantitative research in the forms of focus groups and surveys. Attitudinal and behavioral research collect information on how people think and act.

Although Big Data as a whole can be immense, smaller contributing data streams enable successful measurement of the organization, its publics, and provides predictive analytics for organizations to act upon.

Visit us next week in the third segment of our series to learn about data integration and how to uncover insights from data for your organization.


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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