Friday, May 04, 2012

The Great Professions Part Two

Life in PR is moving towards using a thing called Big Data. It is inevitable.

In Big data: The next frontier, for innovation, competition, and productivity, McKinsey & Company describe it like 'large pools of data that can be captured, communicated, aggregated, stored, and analyzed ...  now part of every sector and function of the global economy,'  (Manyika et al 2011).

Big data has all the facts not just the headlines chosen by an biased editor. As a result it works like a caustic cleaner, working its way through all the obfuscation to the true state of affairs.

Unfeeling radical transparency about constituents, and their things and doings, is becoming evident  by commission and omission.

Some organisation already have embraced the idea and revealed even more data and others have tried to hide their inner working, created an absence of information and as a result pointed to their deepest darkest secrets as mysterious black holes taking (traceable) stuff in and (selectively) letting none out.

How can organisations hide as every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data? There is a hope that no one can go hunting in this indicium nationis. To imagine that science and technology will not want to go exploring a huge and new information nation is a vane hope.

The movement to take this idea forward for the communications industries is by no means new. It has been a progressive development of idea born of the debates that raged round the 2006 post by Chris Anderson of Wired magazine (Anderson 2006). It was described in a Big Data context by Clive Thompson in Wired half a decade ago (Thompson 2007). It was also the subjects of the PR approach by David Phillips (Phillips 2007) in the context of the internet acting as an agent, offering greater corporate porosity as well as richness of content and global reach in The New PR Wiki.

Let us not be overawed by the mass of data. Lets look at why it is significant to public relations practitioners.

Let us make an assumption that the PR profession knows how to acquire news and information for constituents.  OK call it press clips circulated to the Board, research presented as a white paper to marketing or the brief from a product manager used to brief the social media team.

Practitioners in an almost reflex response re-write and re-cast  information in a range of formats for a host of other constituencies. From press clip into the CEO morning brief. From product manager spec sheet to journalist' release. From academic tract to White Paper. Try stopping a practitioner from using Twitter. Its part of the DNA of being a PR practitioner.

What public relations does is to find and synthesis information and disseminate it to relevant constituents to inform their decision making and actions. We offer our constituencies information in digestible form to empower them when  making decisions.The practitioner will offer the context with one hand and the detail with the other.

The citizen, constituent, consumer, journalist, employee, vendor and corporate decision maker have traditionally all benefited from this capability.

But there is the sea change. There is Google. Search Google and make better decisions. Dis-intermediate the PR person. There is Facebook. Post to Facebook and cut out the PR middleman. Use a blog. Post to a blog and go round the newspaper.

But it is not quite as easy as that.

In my next post on this subject I shall explain why.


Thompson, C, (2005) accessed may 2012
Anderson, C (2006)  Accessed May 2012
Phillips, D (2007)  Accessed May 2012
 Manyika et al (2011) Big data: The next frontier, for innovation, competition, and productivity. Accessed May 2012

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