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.