Big Data: Why PR Pros Need to Harness its Power

By: Guest | February 7, 2013 | 

Today’s guest post is by Jim Delaney.

During the last few months, we’ve heard a lot of chatter about big data and how to leverage it for public relations.

Armed with intelligence from the millions of status updates, photos, videos, check-ins, and other digital breadcrumbs on the Internet, PR pros can uncover meaningful, valuable insights.

But it can be an overwhelming task to sift through mountains of intelligence to decipher how to best act upon that data.

Last March on Spin Sucks, Kami Huyse shared the five essential skills PR pros need to master when it comes to big data.

She said when it comes to math and analytics, it’s not exactly love at first sight in PR.

We need to adapt. It’s important to remember just how integral research is to securing and keeping client business.

What is Big Data?

Big Data typically refers to the collection of data sets so large and complex, that in-house data application systems cannot process and filter them effectively. How can you harness the power of big data to support customer service, PR, and marketing efforts? There is no silver bullet, but we can provide some examples based on recent experiences.

The Nicest Person in Social Media

Creative, data-driven social campaigns. Late last year, Kingsford Charcoal sought to identify “The Nicest Person in Social Media.” They worked with our engineering team to develop a script that identified people who tweeted the words “please,” thank you,” and “thanks” most frequently in 2012.

But, being nice isn’t just about please and thank you.

The algorithm also accounted for people with positive sentiment scores and those who avoided “foul” language. After analyzing more than 100 billion tweets, Kingsford Charcoal and Sysomos deemed Waukesha, Wisc., resident, IT professional, and part-time wine blogger, Clifford Brown, as last year’s “Nicest Person in Social Media.”

Clifford’s “nice score” was exceptional, thanks in part to tweeting the words “please,” “thanks,” and “thank you” 1,574 times during the year – more than four times a day! Ultimately, this clever contest enabled Kingsford to promote their product during a time when many people weren’t grilling, and it provided them a way to meaningful engage with the online community in a way they’d never done before.

Ramp Up Your PR Stunt

“Lighting up” a PR stunt. Stunts are a standard tool in our public relations arsenal, but with the help of social media analytics, we’re starting to see brands take them a step further. For example, a tree at Union Station in Toronto was “powered” by Canada’s Christmas spirit.

Using positive Christmas chatter in social media, the data lit up 30,000 LED lights. Each light color represented the sentiment coming from a different social channel. The more social media spirit that came in at one time, the brighter the tree shined. Words such as “Santa,” “snowflake,” and “magic” triggered various patters in the tree’s lights. Big data can “enlighten” stunts – providing the brand with more meaning, longevity, and, ultimately, value.

In 2013, the success or failure of a PR program will become increasingly dependent on deeper analytics and insights. As professionals, we must adapt. Data is no longer a simple measurement or monitoring tool. As Gini urged late last year, PR professionals need to get more creative. And big data provides us that opportunity – to go beyond the basics and unlock more creative campaigns that drive business results.

Jim Delaney is the COO of Marketwire, and steers the day-to-day operations of the company, including all client-facing aspects of the business. Jim has a reputation for delivering exceptional results for prominent international companies such as Dun & Bradstreet and JP Morgan Chase & Co.. He’s a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and also received his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • 40deuce

    Thanks for letting Jim, our COO, post here Gini! He’s got a ton of great ideas and we’re thankful for the opportunity to use your platform to get them out to the world!
    Sheldon, community manager for sysomos and marketwire

    • belllindsay

      @40deuce  sysomos  marketwire Hi Sheldon, it was our pleasure. I enjoyed Jim’s article very much. 🙂

    • @40deuce  Sheldon! Hi! I tweeted Jim this weekend when I read it (after Lindsay got it all ready for publication) and said, “I LOVE YOUR GUEST POST!”

  • rustyspeidel

    These are easy things to get excited about if you have access to terabytes of marketing data. “Big Data” is a very confusing moniker if you’re not Ford or Kingsford. How can smaller business owners tap into this very important, but otherwise inaccessible data stream? Or is it that they must simply work with smaller data sets?

    • ears_delaney

      Hi Rusty — thanks for your comment. While small businesses may not have access to the same amount of data as larger companies, businesses of all sizes can make data-driven decisions. For example, businesses of any size can use free tools to monitor conversations happening around their brand or issues related to their business. Brands can use this information to make critical decisions on everything from sales to product development, to locations and operations, to marketing campaigns. Further, it’s important to note that businesses don’t need to capture every single bit of information out there about their brand, but they should be looking at the right things and acting upon them. While small business may not have the resources to sift through as much data, they can still use free and low-cost tools to listen and make smart decisions.

      • @ears_delaney  @rustyspeidel And they can listen to their own data – what THEIR customers are saying about their brand, and their competitors’.  The problem for most of them – they have to be IN the conversation, and they have to dedicate time and resources to hearing it.

  • @jimdelaney I’m so glad you broached the subject of big data. Something all of us need to understand better so that we can integrate its use in our work with and for clients. I wish I could answer @rustyspeidel ‘s questions intelligently but I’m still wrapping my mind around it. Perhaps someone else will jump in with a response? I tend to think Rusty, that smaller organizations, for the time being anyway, will have to work with smaller data sets.

  • belllindsay

    Bringing emotion to numbers? Say it ain’t so! 😉 I loved hearing about the “Nicest Person in Social Media” campaign. A really smart way to draw attention to a brand, especially ‘out of season’ as Kingsford was at the time. Because of the time-of-year positioning, they made me feel as if they were doing it just for Clifford, rather than for themselves (which, I know wasn’t the case! LOL). Nice emotional touchpoint still. And wow, I remember that Christmas tree at Union Station, it was truly fantastic. Talk about taking ‘interactive’ full circle. Brilliant. Two really smart, innovative and ultimately emotionally resonant ways to transform data into something more than just numbers, charts and graphs.

  • Great intro and examples, Jim! I have liked what I’ve seen as far as Sysomos is concerned. Seems like a super smart and accurate tool. I do have to echo @rustyspeidel here in that I would love to hear thoughts on how small businesses can integrate big data if they don’t have thousands of dollars to spend … I’ve been reading about big data and understand it in theory but how can it be incorporated into a PR campaign practically. Also, at what point does data graduate from data to BIG data? Would love some resources. Thanks for your time!

  • PattiRoseKnight

    The nicest person in social media contest – what a great concept to keep them top of mind when the grilling season is over.

    • @PattiRoseKnight I was never worries, for a single second, that ANY of my PR friends would have won the title of Nicest:)

  • Very cool and creative Christmas stunt with the lights!
    I am a huge fan of using “big data” to support the organization’s effectiveness – and ultimately the customer experience. We have a “cobbler’s own shoes” experience with our own data sometimes; however, most of what Mantis does involves helping organizations harness their data – whether it be unstructured and available through social media, or whether it is behind the curtain in regards to financials, marketing, HR, product/project information, etc.
    It is still new and exciting territory to incorporate external and internal data for that “mythical” 360 degree view of the organization. Basically, the concept isn’t so mythical nowadays. It’s a cool job, too! I once had a day where I assisted in design sessions for a school district, a “fuel specialties” company, and a hospital network. Umm, data is cool – especially if you learn to use it to your advantage!

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