The amount of data created since the beginning of the digital age has transformed the way we use it. Yes, it is true that 90 per cent of data in the world today, has accrued over the past few years. It should be noted, however, that the importance of big data is not necessarily the quantity of information available, but rather the value that can be extracted from it.

According to a Gartner study, almost 75 per cent of companies have jumped onto this bandwagon, using big data to improve performance, better understand customers, competitors, employees, media and public perception. The public relations (PR) sector is no exception.

Big data gives us facts and figures. It does not offer explanations as to ‘why’ or ‘how’ these figures come to be. Uncovering insights provided by big data, therefore, requires a human element and critical thinking to give it meaning and set into motion business strategies. It is difficult to think of a more suitable department than that of PR to humanise this technology.

In fact, according to Statista, global revenue from big data and business analytics are expected to grow to US$274.3 billion in 2022.

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The use of big data and deep analytics have been mostly observed in large corporations with analytic teams. But PR companies have now found ways to take advantage of it as well. A combination of traditional PR tools and deep data analytics that organise appropriate data have allowed PR professionals to maximise campaign efficiency, cut costs and improve ROI.

Moreover, for those who think that PR is at risk of being replaced by other means of advertising, it’s evident that the PR industry revenue is only growing, which reflects on the fact that more and more businesses require PR, be it to build awareness, manage reputation or conquer new horizons.

Making better-informed decisions for a better-informed campaign

Most PR campaigns are carried out with a specific objective in mind. Be it to build awareness, embark on international expansion, reputation management or damage control; the success of the campaign depends on the information available.

For instance, PR campaigns that focus on international expansion, especially when it comes to tech startups, could use data analysis to determine the response the unknown audience may have.

Alexander Izryadnov, a Co-Founder and CEO at Vinci Agency, says that tech projects that offer an innovative product or technology need assistance in expanding to international markets, hence it’s vital to identify and analyse the audience, set correct localization targets and consider the mentality, legislation, geographical, economic and political landscape of the market.

Big data reduces the risks associated with PR campaigns by achieving better fact-based decision-making and improving customer experience. It allows in-depth insight into the sentiment around your brand – which ultimately allows for a tailored campaign. Deciding whether to launch a new product, how to launch a new product, or when to do so can all be made more informed by Big Data and deep data analysis.

Babel PR suggests that PR professionals should double up as data scientists to optimise the level of information available to them.

In the end-to-end process of decision making, Big data ensures that all decisions are well-informed. By combining big data with traditional methods of social listening, the PR campaign can be acutely customised to best fit the perceived value of the targeted audience. In other words, Big data can help create initiatives that are sustainably valuable.

Also Read: How big data is impacting the legal world

When a PR campaign successfully utilises big data in creating sustainable initiatives, the waste of resources is reduced, costs are cut and ROI improves. This is because the limited resources that are allocated to one campaign are utilised more efficiently, this produces better results. The successes of the campaign in terms of growth, sales, awareness and engagement can outweigh the monetary value of your initial investment- hence improving ROI.

Damage control = cost control

A PR crisis can cost your company its survival. Negative stories have a real consequence that can affect organisations ability to salvage its reputation and its worth. Essentially, the best way to survive a PR crisis is to avoid them altogether by taking proactive measures.

Big data opens the virtual door to what is essentially a PR toolbox. Step one of effective damage control is to assess the damage. Big data allows agencies to access and collect information from a wide scope of sources to catch any bad publicity that could spiral into trending news cycles.

The fact that over 30 per cent of company crises turn global in less than an hour is, in part, thanks to big data. They provide volumes of real-time information that allows PR companies to respond quickly and effectively.

Accordingly, big data also allows PR companies to detect and pick up on positive sentiment, which they may be able to exploit at the right time to generate more positive coverage.

Through the use of big data and deep data analytics, a PR campaign should be able to proactively maintain and nurture a brands reputation to avoid long term costs of damage. These costs are associated with direct monetary loss, through revenue and investment; and additional expenditure on PR damage control.

Using big data to improve ROI

The best return on investment for PR campaigns are demonstrated through growth, media placements, media impressions and web traffic. Big data helps to achieve a substantial ROI for PR campaigns in these areas. Access to an analysis of data generated by a company’s key stakeholders can be used to modify PR strategy for the best ROI.

It is generally understood that a good investment produces a positive return over time. The notion of ROI is a well-understood measure of value- yet can be hard to quantify.

The value of a PR campaign can be measured in terms of increases in sales and leads. Big Data can reveal customer choices, trends, and opinions. This information, combined with the companies goals should be incorporated into the campaign to optimise the efficient allocation of resources, cut costs and improve ROI.

For example, upon launching a new product, Big data should highlight consumer preferences with regards to the movement of trends, styles and needs. It should also show which campaigns have had the most profound effect on sales. These could have been celebrity endorsements or campaigns with charitable and sustainable angles attached. Depending on the interest of the company at hand, these reports should be considered when planning a PR campaign, to ensure the best strategy.

Also Read: Is Small Data more insightful than Big Data?

Whilst it is clear that Big Data provides key insights into the thoughts and behavioural patterns of a companies target demographic, which in turn, helps to maximise campaign ROI; Big Data can also be used to measure your return on investment.

Media impressions and the public perception of a company can come to light through media coverage and customer purchasing behaviour; each of which can be detected through big data. Positive coverage and increased growth are each metrics of good ROI. The ability to see and measure the success of a campaign can be helpful for future PR efforts.

Further, using big data to analyse competitors PR efforts can help to shape your own. Measuring the success or failures of past campaigns can steer your own in a particular direction. This can help you avoid making similar mistakes and cut costs in the long run.

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