The Death of PR Data. Long Live Insights.(1)

The Strategic Research Conference hosted by the Institute for Public Relations and PRIME Research on June 9th in New York City, prompts this perspective on the evolution of research-based public relations and the science beneath the art.

Year after year, more and more money flows into PR and social analytics tools and services. And the momentum continues to build with new tools and application program interfaces (APIs) emerging every week. Unfortunately, most automated tools merely collect data blindly; users don’t know how to filter it or how to transform, digest and apply it effectively. Despite marketing claims to easily enable engagement, analytics and insights, most organizations simply gather and dump data in ways that actually hurt the cause for research-based public relations.

On the other hand, many research consultancies, including mine, have recognized for decades that the value of data is in the actionable insights it generates rather than in the data itself. This is the theme of the “Insights to Action: Improving PR Performance” conference on June 9.  Assuming that the data are accurate, relevant and timely, automation alone does not drive better communications and business decisions. Intelligent and actionable insights require human expertise and expert decision-making requires informed decision-makers.

In social media measurement, I liken our current environment to “the third wave.”

In the first wave of content analysis, humans provided insightful analysis. Perfect for traditional media, the process was too slow for the torrents of content generated through social media.  In the second wave, the pendulum swung toward totally automated data analytics/visualization technology which provided speed and consistency but irrelevant content and inaccurate data absent of insight (despite marketers claims, “insight” is a human trait not found in machines). The third wave is au currant: without sacrificing the speed and consistency of technology, humans add the benefits of content relevancy, data accuracy, interpretive analysis, actionable insights and strategic guidance that decision-makers need.  Hybrid systems in the third wave combine talent with technology to help companies discover new opportunities, minimize risk and elevate their businesses and brands.

On June 9, the Institute for Public Relations and PRIME Research will co-host a conference, “Insights to Action: Improving PR Performance.” Register now to listen to top communicators from eBay, Capital One, Samsung, PIMCO, AbbVie, W2O Group and Weber Shandwick who will share their experience, case studies and lessons-learned as they overcame the challenges of applying research to improve PR performance and prove PR value.

Mark Weiner is the Chief Executive Officer at PRIME Research, Americas. A long-time supporter of the Institute for Public Relations, Mark writes and speaks on the benefits of research in demonstrating and generating a positive return on PR investment. Follow him on Twitter @WeinerMark.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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