Data is Everything in 2018

This post was originally published on PLMR.co.uk on 5 January 2018.
‘Top Trends for 2018’ articles are nearly as common as New Year’s resolutions to get off the couch and start eating healthy. I’ve trawled through all of them and I’m here to give my prediction on what stands to transform the PR industry over the next 12 months.
Big Data

Over recent years, with social media’s influence on the up and up, and the role of traditional journalism being questioned, it can sometimes be a challenge to demonstrate the value of PR to organisations.

While having a few journalist contacts and a strong Twitter following might be enough for some companies, having an agency as an additional arm to the business can offer far more opportunities than those provided by the more old-school approach to PR. This is often simply because it’s easier for a group of professionals to stay abreast of new routes to market and because there’s strength in numbers – the contacts of several people will naturally outnumber the contacts of one, or even a small team. But with budget constraints, often PR and communications are the first to be considered for cuts, making it even more crucial to be able to show our worth in the form of measurable outcomes.

Unfortunately this is unlikely to change in 2018. Social media is still influential (obviously), but it should be viewed as an additional factor that complements and amplifies the traditional tiers of PR coverage and the more emerging methods of influencing your audience. Depending on your clients’ goals, social media can be a tricky nut to crack. What is likely to change in 2018 are the tools that we have to demonstrate our value and highlight our results.

In this day and age, data is everything. Everyone’s heard of big data – many agencies are likely working with third party companies who are best placed to provide such ‘big data’, like email lists (side note – it remains to be seen how this will change come 25 May 2018 when GDPR goes into effect).

But how many of us are comfortable when it comes to analysing data? I’m not just talking about knowing that it’s good if the graph goes up and that bigger bars are better. In the 21st Century, we all need to be data scientists. The tools to provide detailed, up to the minute analyses are available, and they’re getting more advanced, more fool-proof, and more affordable every day (although this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as articles on this topic have been coming out since 2016).

Measuring Data

This access to data is going to expand the market for PR measurement tools, allowing us to use technology in order to provide quantifiable outcomes. While there are many tasks that need to be undertaken in order to establish strong foundations that don’t necessarily lead to measurable outcomes, adopting data-driven content,  marketing strategies, advanced social and web analytics, and client relationship management (CRM) systems will help us prove value and make it easier to give (or get) credit where credit is due.

Praise the PR gods!

The Futuristic Side of Data

Some of the best advances in data can be seen in the artificial intelligence that will become commonplace in the not-so-distant future (no surprise that I’d touch on this, I know).

Platforms that use machine learning are important tools in every aspect of digital and data-focused public relations, from using chatbots to improve client communications, and creating more refined and targeted content, to predicting the scale of crises. So in the next year, get used to terms such as natural language processing, deep learning techniques, predictive analytics, text mining and advanced attribution.

The Bottom Line

As PR pros, we need to stay ahead in these areas; data will be key to success. It is no longer acceptable to get away with saying you’re “not very good at maths”. In order to excel in this field, you need to brush up on your statistics. Make this year the year that you incorporate training courses on data management or analysis. Or consider meeting up with that company who contacted you advertising their new data tool. Your clients, and your future self, will thank you for it.

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