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Why big data matters in PR

|August 19, 2016
Written by

Dan Brennan

Sick of hearing the term ‘Big Data?’ Good. Me too. There’s literally an article popping up every 15 minutes that addresses ‘How Big Data is Reshaping Industry X.’

Businesses using data isn’t new (in fact, it used to be called Business Intelligence). It’s just become more important because it’s the standard (and developments in technology have made the ability to analyze data more granular). There’s an expectation from the market that you’re using data insights to make informed decisions about your business, set strategy and measure success. It’s changed the way we sell, market and service our products. And in PR it’s created a bit of a scramble to make sure that we’re earning our keep every month.

Let’s be honest, we didn’t get into PR to crunch numbers (at least I didn’t – I can’t speak for all of us), but there’s no question that data will play a pivotal role in the future of our industry. I’m not suggesting that we all instantly become fluent in Hadoop, but it will be important for agencies to think about their staffing a little differently as data continues to become an integral part of our programs. We used to simply look for creative professionals who could write and understand the landscape of the media. Still important, but there’s a new skill set that I look for when I’m interviewing candidates and that’s data fluency. Universities are seeing the trend as well and they’re adjusting their curriculum. In fact, Wharton recently shared with the Wall Street Journal that it’s ramping up its syllabus with programs that focus on business analytics and the application of data science to business problems.

So why is big data so important in PR? And why should you be thinking about integrating a data guru into the mix of your agency talent pool? Because we continue to get squeezed into the digital marketing machine that’s become incredibly data driven and there’s an expectation that every dollar spent yields a direct tangible result. Generating unmeasurable awareness isn’t good enough anymore.

So the question is, how can PR professionals be smarter about how they use data? Here’s how we’re doing it already:

  • Competitive Benchmarking: Tapping into publicly available information to understand how you stack up against your nemesis in the market and where you need to put the horsepower for your PR and marketing program. We leverage a proprietary report called REFLEX to measure our impact every month and ensure that our efforts are moving the needle in the right places.
  • Content Strategy: Ever been asked by your marketing department to draft a blog post? Ever sat in front of computer screen wondering what the heck you should write about? Access to data has nearly eliminated writers block. We now do seasonal analysis of keyword trends that are associated with our industry to help inform editorial strategy (just like big publishers do!). The goal of content marketing is to get found and getting found relies on SEO.
  • Internal Benchmarking: We’re now in a position to understand how our owned content is performing in an instant (also an invaluable resource for informing our content strategy). We work closely with clients using our proprietary SCALE analysis to determine what’s worked so far, and what hasn’t. And also pinpoint the typical customer journey so that we can tailor our campaigns and PR efforts to match that journey precisely.

That’s really only scratching the surface of what’s possible right now and the ways we’re incorporating data into the mix of our PR programs. That’s also a prime reason that you should be thinking differently when it comes to your hiring strategy. When you look at your next resume, think well beyond the traditional blocking and tackling of the daily PR grind and instead evaluate how a data scientist may shake up your perspective on PR, marketing and the industry. SHIFT dove in head first and it’s changed our view of the market and the value we deliver to our clients.

——— Written by Dan Brennan, Vice-President
SHIFT Communications, sister company of NATIONAL Public Relations