Monday, May 31, 2010

Fluffy Clouds and a PR Ontology

Girish Lakshminarayana is something of a coding wizard. He takes my half-formed ideas and turns them into code, adds insights of his own and comes up with astonishing results.

It is his genius that is taking me to to an RDFa description of text (I know about the semantic web reservations about this)  and other data that will describe the requirements for Semantic Public Relations.

Soon the PR practitioner will have programmes that are a knowledge representation of the client landscape showing a cloudscape of  people, their interests and view, ideas, products, interactions and commitment. We will be able to project into the future with known degrees of accuracy and much much more. These insights will be dimensions richer than modern PR research. We will use the internet to give us insights and solutions.

Into this changing view to an endless horizon, the practitioner will be able to inject ideas to test what outcomes may be.

Not all the advantages are far into the future. many of them are already available.

Today, we are able to identify the semantic concepts embedded in individual page citations; automatically describe the type of web page (descriptors range from link farm to blog), add the date/time of publication (with some accuracy), identify names, titles and even email addresses in text and pick up some other fun attributes. We can do this in a scalable computing environment to allow a very big corpus to be examined. In a word, we know who people are, what, where and when they find things interesting and how relevant they are to the corporate drivers of our employers and clients (which we can also gain from online insights). We know what is available to influence them and the values available they hold dear.

Using interesting  mathematical models, and we use Bayesian and Boolean logic a lot (this is fuzzy logic used to ensure that, for example, aircraft systems keep planes in the air),  we can do some very deep analytical modelling. This means that we can look at word concepts that competitors have in common, the types of media that they have in common, the dates when these were common between them and much more and from these we the triplets that take us to insights as opposed to answers. We can then create documents accompanied by semantic markup (and some of these apparently structural components can be - in my view - much more organic and identified on the fly).

Over the years, as more corporate activity has been mediated by the internet, it has become possible to be more and more accurate in the information we can glean and process to good effect. Over the years we have published these findings by showing some of the outcomes.

Because of cloud computing the size and range of these data is no longer constrained, which means we can cover much more ground than ever before.

The PR industry is already beginning to gain advantageous from the evolution of the semantic web. Here are some examples of benefits that have already emerged:

  • First, monitoring is really easy (dead tree clips are even possible). 
  • Being able to compare different forms of outputs, out-takes and outcomes is much simpler. 
  • Media, audience and message analysis is simple and the nature of the networks is revealed (a simple practical example is being able to find subject related bloggers  by national audience penetration, level of interest and engagement).
  • Influential statements and responses can be synthesised, weighted and viewed in daily, weekly or progressive monthly time frames and by audience demographic. 
  • We took a look at a comment by Sir Tim Berners-Lee to see if it was possible to create a newspaper from existing content online. It is. It can be very very specific. It is the kind of content that would be regarded as a manifestation of 'thought leadership' in the parlance of todays PR industry. It is striking, always on, brings news, thinking and research from great minds worldwide in minutes (well in seconds if you are a stock market trader) and it is an amazing by-product of semantic PR research.
So much for the present and a lot of this should be accompanied by a big dose of 'so what' if practitioners don't or won't use this intelligence. 

Soon we will be able to answer much more profound questions not with facts but with insights. Questions like: Will the PR industry engage with the semantic web and the insights it can bring to bear.