September 24

Big Data, Big Headache? Cultivating Actionable Insight from Your Information

Since I started my career in public relations, the amount of data I have been able to access about the media has grown significantly. We are talking about the days when media databases were giant books printed quarterly and delivered to your office for everyone to share. You conducted your morning media monitor by reading and cutting (with scissors) articles from newspapers and magazines that mentioned your client. You normally had multiple copies of each publication—one for reading, one for clipping. Pitches were faxed or mailed and feedback was only secured after you made a follow up call a week later. Competitive analysis was stumbling across an article that mentioned them.

Fast forward to today where, in addition to the digitization of our tools, we now can be friends with media on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and read their personal blogs. We can set up Google Alerts for every potential key word imaginable. A clip can now be live within minutes of an interview wrapping up and available online. But are these new forms of interaction and monitoring—the so called big data for the public relations industry—being used to our benefit? Sadly, I don’t think so..

As industries from retail to healthcare have struggled with their own big data projects, so are we. We have all this information but how do we use it? I look at this big data issue as two parallel opportunities for public relations professionals:

The ability to pitch smarter- Media are people too. They have likes and dislikes.  Social media has allowed us a glimpse into their personalities, who they are outside the newsroom. If you follow some of your contacts closely enough, you can uncover when they are working on a deadline, having a bad day or heading out of the office early to attend a conference. Use this information to your advantage. If a reporter mentions he doesn’t like getting pitched via Twitter, don’t pitch him or her that way. Watch how they interact with other PR professionals and see what works and what doesn’t. Keep notes in your media list of these likes and dislikes and refer to them before conducting outreach.

Most importantly, use this information to develop a deeper relationship with members of the press.  I once found out, thanks to Tumblr, that a reporter I had been trying to build a relationship with was heading to my hometown with family members for the weekend and with no idea on where to kill time before a wedding. A quick e-mail with a list of a few bars close to the church opened up a personal dialogue that allowed me to build a strong professional relationship that has grown over time. At the end of the day, remember that the person you are pitching has a life outside their office. You might find something in common and kick off a conversation that will lead to great results.

The ability to create a more refined, focus media strategy – New data streams also provides us with greater insight into our competition. Just collecting this information doesn’t. Create a system where you can keep records of how media is covering you and your competition. It could be as simple as an extra column in a media list or as complex as an advanced database. The key is using this information to refine your media strategy. Perhaps, you have been completely overlooking a reporter, but they cover your client on a regular basis.

Media research has also advanced thanks to online databases like Cision, Vocus and MyMediaInfo. With up-to-date information and background on reporter’s preferred pitch method, it is hard to say you just had the wrong e-mail address when pitching. Supplementing the information these databases provide with your own research and you have effectively harnessed big data for your advantage.

Data will not tell you the right answer; only point you in the right direction. Just make sure you are asking it to the right questions.


Connect with Erin:

Phone: 212.584.5477
Twitter: @erin_e_burke
LinkedIn: Erin Burke

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