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Do PR and Communication Professionals Need to Know Data?

An important course in Southeastern Oklahoma State University's MBA with an Emphasis in Strategic Communication online program is Data Analysis for Managers. It covers theory and application of statistical and quantitative techniques to various types of business data, with an emphasis on interpreting data analysis results from a manager's perspective.

Big data, the product of using many small data streams to develop actionable insights, is increasingly driving public relations and communications. It enables professionals who work in communication management to act decisively and quickly, armed with more intelligence than ever.

How Is Data for Communication and PR Campaigns Derived?

Big data aggregates numbers that can include census data and external statistics on financial, economic and lifestyle trends as well as internal company data covering metrics like costs and sales. Most of this data can be categorized:

  • Outputs: Information that communication departments produce and disseminate, along with resulting media coverage in an effort to affect a target audience
  • Outtakes: Inferences audiences draw from strategic communications
  • Outcomes: Behaviors measured by awareness, understanding and preferences

Making intelligent use of outputs, outtakes and outcomes depends on having subject matter expertise, critical thinking, statistical mastery and access to sophisticated data analysis tools (software). These are some of the skills developed in a strategic communication MBA program.

Using Big Data for Communication Management

Parsing of Correlation vs. Causation. Data scientists in communication seek to understand many business factors, from brand perception to revenue. They also want to know what motivates their target audiences. Without data of substantial quality and quantity, correlation is often mistaken for causation. What can lead to failure is the inability to discern which factors correlate to success and which ones cause success.

Conducting Landscape Analyses. Before formulating a strategic communications plan, managers must understand the context in which they operate. This includes marketplace developments, media trends and competitive PR moves. Working with big data, analysts can synthesize these factors with economic indicators, societal trends and business performance numbers to produce actionable insights that drive effective communications.

Developing Strategic Communications Plans. Data analytics helps to develop measurable communication objectives, initiatives, campaigns, tactics and tangible outcomes. Reaching these ends can be accomplished consistently over time by accumulating, defining and understanding factors such as audiences, positioning and behavioral responses to messaging.

Evaluation of Communication Campaigns. The difference is staggering between what we can learn from a PR/communication campaign today with big data and what we could learn without big data not long ago. Not only can we see relationships (correlations) between the initiatives, campaigns and tactics employed, but we can pinpoint the outcomes of specific maneuvers in order to achieve predictable success repeating what works — and avoiding what does not.

At the end of the process, data maximizes our potential for success in communication management while minimizing risk. It gives insights into the future before we invest our resources. Organizations that harness this power will successfully adapt to a changing business landscape that relies increasingly on big data.

Learn more about Southeastern's online MBA program with an Emphasis in Strategic Communication.


Stern Strategy: How to Craft a More Strategic Communications Plan with Big Data

PRSA: On the Horizon: Unleashing the Power of Big Data in Public Relations

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