Amanda Peterson, Enlightened Digital
Big data has become one of the most significant trends in modern technology. It’s no exaggeration to say that today’s society is generating massive amounts of information. In fact, studies have predicted that more than 90 percent of data in the world was created in the past two years. Such a wide scope of insight can be extremely useful across a range of industries, which is why many businesses are finding ways to take advantage of it.
The field of public relations is no exception to the list of industries using big data to their advantage. Though PR is commonly recognized as a creative field, it is strongly supported by a backbone of research. Utilizing data is becoming increasingly important in PR because of its ability to improve campaign performance and generate greater customer value.
Big data is critical to effective PR strategy, as it measures and monitors vast amounts of relative data to communicate effectively in dynamic markets. Managing enormous sets of information however, is no easy feat for businesses of any size. Without proper knowledge about big data and how it can be utilized beneficially, big data can launch many people into information overload.
We’ve created a beginner’s guide to simplify the fundamentals of big data, and explain how it’s impactful in PR.
What is Big Data?
Data in itself isn’t a new invention, but the explosion of available information created since the beginning of the digital age has transformed the way we utilize it. Computers, especially cloud based spreadsheets and databases, have allowed us to store information both at scale and with unprecedented access. Almost every action we take leaves a digital footprint, which can be collected into massive data sets. We generate data in every online journey, whether it be online shopping, carrying GPS-equipped smartphones, or communicating with friends through social media platforms. The term “big data” refers to the collection of all this data and our ability to use it to our advantage across a wide range of areas.
To put it simply, big data describes the large volume of data, both structured and unstructured, that inundates businesses on a daily basis. However, it’s not the amount of data that’s important, but the ways in which businesses use it to their advantage. The technical definition qualifies big data by the “Three V’s:” Volume, Velocity and Variety. Gartner defines big data as “data that contains greater variety arriving in increasing volumes and with ever-higher velocity.” In simpler terms, big data is larger, more complex data sets from a wide array of sources.
Until recently, usable data was limited to structured spreadsheets and databases. Anything that wasn’t formatted in a unified manner was deemed difficult to work with and was often ignored. Today’s advances in storage and analytics mean that businesses can capture, store and assess many types of data, including anything from photos, videos, sound recordings, written text and sensor data. Big data projects often utilize other cutting-edge technologies, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which can quickly identify trends and patterns in large sets of data.
Benefits of Big Data
As previously mentioned, the major benefit of big data doesn’t revolve around how much data you have, but what you can do with it. With big data, you can take information from a number of different sources and analyze it to facilitate smart decision making. Decisions supported by massive amounts of data enable businesses to anticipate needs, mitigate risk, deliver relevant products, personalize service, and optimize the customer experience. From beginning to end of the decision-making process, big data ensures that all decisions are well-informed.
Big data can transform how decision-makers view business problems and shape the way in which they’re approached. Businesses utilizing big data are able to analyze information efficiently and derive valuable insight in a timely manner. With markets continuing to evolve, organizations using this can adapt and make real-time decisions more quickly than competitors. Not only can companies equipped with big data make reactive decisions, but they can also make proactive decisions ahead of market fluctuations.
How Big Data is Used in PR
The benefit of better decision making with big data can also be applied to public relations. In regard to both strategy and tactic development, big data can help create initiatives that are sustainably valuable. Though much of PR is based on intuition, big data presents a major opportunity to gain insight with facts and figures.
By combining big data with social listening, PR professionals can gather more information about the sentiment of their clients from niche communities. From there, the agency can customize campaign materials to best fit the perceived value of the targeted community. PR agencies can further their use of big data and social listening to mitigate any negative press their client may receive. Big data allows agencies to collect information from a wide scope of sources to catch any bad publicity that could spiral into trending news cycles. Mentionlytics reports that over 30 percent of company crises turns global in less than an hour. The real-time information provided by big data allows PR companies to respond quickly and effectively to any press that may arise, regardless of sentiment.
Most PR agencies have already harnessed the use of social, mobile, and online communications, which are all packed with useful data. Garnering useful insight from these outlets can help PR professionals understand the actions behind their content.
SociallyMined, a data-driven marketing agency has recently become popular among California-based celebrities and media companies. Using big data, SociallyMined’s PR division uses analytics for an entertainment company to understand the sentiment surrounding their featured talent. “In one instance,” says CEO Matt Anthes, “we identified 80% negative sentiment surrounding false perceptions but when we explored the data in detail, we were able to formulate a strategy to articulate the truth and change perceptions. The strategy we employed converted sentiment from 80% negative to 20% negative within a matter of three weeks.”
“There’s never been so much content and data available for PR professionals as there is today, but the mass quantity of information can be daunting,” explains March PR managing partner Martin Jones. “Yet buried in all this content is information that can provide real insight for PR professionals.”
PRIME Research utilizes a comprehensive dashboard that crawls online media from a vast number of sources, including social media, e-papers, TV, radio, and digitized print content. The challenge presented by such massive data sets can become difficult to manage, which is why the company benefits from using IBM Cloud Services. PRIME Research can now handle media monitoring with increased performance, scalability, flexibility and global reach. Big data can be extremely beneficial to PR companies, but PRIME Research recognizes that the data is virtually worthless if it isn’t well organized and easily accessible.
Using big data in PR services has already surmounted to an immeasurable ROI and has identified these companies as pioneers in the data-focused entertainment PR space. Big data can be used to address business problems you wouldn’t have been able to tackle before.
Through big data, PR agencies will be able to adapt to the ever-changing media and economic environments, while grounding their content, strategies and ideas with analytics and research. With massive amounts of data generated everyday, big data can help PR companies use it to their advantage.