The Institute for Public Relations hosted a free webinar on Nov. 13, introducing its soon-to-be-released white papers on the effects of big data on public relations. Authors of the papers, Mark Weiner and Sarab Kochhar, introduced the concept of big data and how it can be used to maximize public relations efforts.
Big data has no single standard definition. Kochhar characterizes it by the amount of data, the speed at which it’s found, the different types formats and the intrinsic value it has.
There are internal, shared and external data streams. Kochhar explained that internal data streams provide the most access and control over data. For shared and external data, information can be available and controlled by the public. Social media platforms also provide a great source of big data.
After understanding the basics of big data, Kochhar and Weiner insist PR practitioners ask themselves how they can use data to make smart PR decisions.
“Data yields actionable insights”
Big data is more than just a tool. Weiner says big data should encompass a human element by making it meaningful and actionable. Finding big data is the first part, but being able to retrieve beneficial insights from data is the best way big data can be a “contributing factor” in public relations.
By combining critical thinking, the advanced tools of big data and subject matter expertise, PR practitioners will be able to find the value from these insights.
Kochhar gave the example of Cisco turning to more sophisticated sources of data. Once PR practitioners were able to use this tool, they eventually discovered key market drivers and opportunities for the company not previously seen. By combining the tool of big data and understanding the needs of the company, practitioners tailored their messages with their findings.
“It is not about the data — it is how you think about the data”
Weiner suggests the concept of big data isn’t valuable in and of itself, but in the insights you pull to make beneficial communication decisions that align with your organization’s objectives.
When understanding how to use big data, Weiner says we must be able to interpret the data in a way that will support any further actions as PR practitioners. Finding valuable information from big data will help you tend to the specific needs of your publics and tailor your messages based on the data you retrieved.
Big data helps PR practitioners “predict and predicate the future.”
According to Weiner, predicting and predicating the future is supported through the use of big data. By pulling valuable insights from data collected, practitioners are able to prioritize messages necessary for an organization in the present and often times for the future.
Weiner shows the benefits of using big data to predict and predicate the future with the example of MasterCard. MasterCard used a conversation suite to understand the wants and needs of its consumers with its newly released mobile payments. Practitioners were able to harvest data to identify what future corrections they could make to fix the mobile payment system.
It’s necessary to know the objectives of the organization to steer big data findings in the right direction.
Kochhar and Weiner promise that using big data in the public relations industry will help PR practitioners make better decisions to ensure better business results, help achieve company objectives, and ultimately communicate the value of communications in the organization.
How has big data helped you in your profession?
Born and raised in sunny San Diego, I came fresh out of the womb with my toes in the sand. I was born to a professional shopaholic mother who has helped develop my intense shopping ways and inspired my appreciation for beautiful things. I am so intrigued by the beauty in the diversity of people and places as well.
Now with snow constantly in my boots and bruises from slipping on ice, I am entering my junior year at Brigham Young University surrounded by Utah’s beautiful mountainous scenery. I am majoring in public relations and minoring in management.
I love taking on new projects and trying new things. Since I was a young girl, I would always have a notebook in my hand and a story to tell. I enjoy using storytelling and descriptive writing as an outlet for anything on my mind. I love working with social media as a means of communication. I am amazed by the power it has on the masses and I love using this tool as a positive communication device.