Forget the Enterprise; Does PR Need Big Data Analytics?

28 Jul Forget the Enterprise; Does PR Need Big Data Analytics?

Big data,” the term du jour in the enterprise world, relates to data sets so massive and complex that they are nearly impossible to process via traditional means.  Comprised of a myriad of end user, competitive, internal and industry information, most businesses look at Big Data as an incredibly intricate puzzle box, one that if unraveled can lead them to a golden age of prosperity.

Unsurprisingly, the average consumer knows little about big data, and for good reason – it’s an enterprise-class problem.  Or is it?

Steven Rosenbaum, a contributor to Forbes, wrote a recent article that may contest the back-office-only nature of the big data issue.  Rosenbaum starts with a common theme for the average technology user – that we’re overloaded – and points to the constant background clamoring of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email and other services as evidence.

What his article hammers home, however, is that we are sinking in a sea of “data,” not “information.”  Data is raw, uncultured numbers and messages that mean little as-is; once it is sorted, sifted and decrypted, only then does it become useful information.  Rosenbaum’s point is that we’re overwhelmed with data, but under-whelmed when it comes to information.

I could not agree more with this sentiment.  In public relations, we tend to call unrelated data “noise;” it’s easiest to illustrate during a large tradeshow week, say CTIA.  Company A is launching an enterprise grade networking product, Company B is pushing out a new smartphone and so on; these crossed messages are noise to the uninterested parties and the sheer volume of this data pushes the overall PR value of the week down dramatically.

Rosenbaum’s article goes on to mention smart agents; applications and processes that can help filter this data to find relevant information, and specific tools like SaneBox and Dashlane.  He also discusses the need for user-built smart rules for services like Gmail and Facebook, to help break down the noise.

This is great for the end user and consumers, but as PR professionals, it’s up to us to act as the “smart agents” for our clients.  In essence, we’re the Big Data solution – we need to understand the raw data and pull out the relevant bits and bytes that matter to our clients.  Certainly, this requires a certain level of savvy and experience, but even the newly minted interns understand the need to sift through social media feeds to find what matters.

Perhaps that last line is what’s most important – we need to ensure our clients see “what matters.”  The noise is growing, so we need to ensure that our clients can really, truly be heard, regardless of the medium.

–John Terrill

John Terrill
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