The sheer volume of data available from ever-expanding digital communication platforms and channels can help provide valuable insights into your stakeholders. But how can you deploy “big data” in your communication arsenal?
Eva Pedrol Medialdea, director of the corporate communications and crisis areas for LLYC (LLORENTE & CUENCA) in Barcelona, explains that big data is simply the storage, management and analysis of large amounts of data. Knowing how to tap into the opportunities it affords can make all the difference for communication pros.
Too often, communicators struggle to provide tangible ways to measure their efforts. “With big data, that situation makes a 180-degree turnaround,” Medialdea points out. “It allows communication professionals to use large amounts of information in the decision-making process to define the best strategies and align them with stakeholders’ expectations.”
Mark Weiner, chief insights officer at Cision Insights (the research-based consulting arm of Cision), advises aligning PR measures with the existing big data framework. These measures should include what happened, when, where, what was said, and by whom.
As co-author of the white paper Irreversible: The Public Relations Big Data Revolution, Weiner writes that, “Once PR demonstrates its ability to positively influence the business overall on those factors which drive the bottom-line (sales, cost, staffing, regulatory action, etc.), the greater PR’s esteem will be.”
Here are three ways big data is changing communication—and how you can adapt.
Change #1: Grab a seat at the big data table. Better yet, lead the way.
“If you’re working in a big data environment and PR is not represented in analysis, you are out of it, literally,” Weiner says. Companies make major decisions (i.e., budgeting, allocating resources) using this analysis, and “if you’re absent, you’re not even being considered.”
Noting that boundaries among disciplines are blurring, Medialdea suggests companies ditch the siloed approach. “Have all your teams working together in order to achieve the best business and reputation results,” she says. “Communicators can be the ones to lead this change towards more holistic strategies.”
Change #2: Use big data for personalization and segmentation in your communication efforts.
“We have a tremendous in-depth knowledge about our stakeholders, and companies need to hyper-personalize content, taking into account the channel and stakeholders’ interests, feelings, and localization,” Medialdea says. Tap into big data to fully customize communication, segment communities, and personalize the narrative. The goal? To make communication more effective and capable of responding to the target audience’s different demands, says Medialdea.
Change #3: Make technology play a key role in the communication department.
Communicators should use tools that allow them to analyze large volumes of data and present them intelligently. But let go of the myth that it’s too expensive, say Weiner. “The biggest assumption is that research is too expensive, too complicated,” he says. Affordable options exist within every communicator’s budget, and some (such as Google Analytics) are free, or low-cost tools.
In addition, communicators can provide context for big data. “It’s the human element that adds understanding,” says Weiner, noting that pros must analyze the data to uncover the story. “The numbers aren’t the story—they only support the story,” he explains. “The end game is to uncover trends, identify actionable insights, and act on this information.”
Medialdea echoes this point, noting that communicators need to master how to analyze the 24/7 swirl of news and conversations and their link with the brand. “Technology is allowing us to move from mere monitoring to intelligence,” says Medialdea.
The bottom line? Begin simply, but simply begin, advises Weiner. Communication can both shape and reflect public opinion, and big data should be at the center of your efforts.