Why the PR industry should be forcing its clients to get to grips with big data by Tim Downs, Aberfield Communications

It’s the buzz word for 2014, but what should the PR industry be making of ‘big data’? Actually, quite a lot in my opinion. As a sector we are clearly no strangers to data, but more often than not it’s simply to hit the magical 2,000 respondents that make our wonderfully creative ‘qualitative’ idea, ‘quantitatively’ robust – yep, a survey. Some marketing industries are concerned that big data is a threat – quantitative market research for one. If businesses get to grips with the large data sets that they generate in order to spot trends and market more efficiently, where does this leave agencies and external suppliers? You can bet that the large multiple retailers will be investing heavily in growing their internal capabilities in this area. But what does this mean for PR? It means access to a goldmine of information! I’ve read pieces that suggest that PR agencies will struggle to gain access to information. But it’s not the agency that would naturally have access to big data, it’s the client. The opportunity lies in being given access to that client data – think about the information that exists in sectors like financial services, home entertainment and communications, multi-channel retailers and utilities. Whether you are in b2b, corporate or consumer, big data means big wins for those that get to grips with how to interpret it for PR purposes, and for clients who are brave enough to allow us to use it. Imagine being able to segment customers and consumers by a million different criteria whenever you wanted to illustrate your clients’ point of view. The best PR stories are those that are based on truth and add value and there is no greater truth than the data that helps to drive a business. The ability to analyse trends, backed up with robust statistics, and used to create a narrative that can make confident predictions about the future – what’s not to love? And you can guarantee that a client that is willing to come out and say it will excite journalists in any given sector, whether you are providing industry comment or consumer insight. But the agencies and clients that will generate the greatest PR value from big data are those that find the most creative and ambitious ways of bringing it life – because there is no reason why data has to be boring. So we have a responsibility to push our clients to get to grips with big data because it offers us a competitive advantage, as well as them. Tim Downs, Director, Aberfield Communications
Creative Moment Awards 2020