How are data and tech disrupting the PR biz?

by Rob Lovegrove Rowland Head of Digital

Published on
September 5, 2017

In preparing a presentation for a recent PRIA Queensland event on the topic of how data is transforming the PR jobs of the future, it dawned on me that my education and career, across a range of communication disciplines, has mirrored the rise of the internet of things.

The 90s delivered not just the Internet’s first website in 1991 but, later that decade, a debt-ridden, journalism and comms graduate whose degree just so happened to incorporate web development.

Armed with all I thought I needed to know, I set off to make a difference in the world, one media release at a time.

What dawns on me now, with the benefit of wisdom(?) and hindsight is that as a ‘PR man’ I’ve always aimed to use data and big data in one way or another — it just hadn’t become a buzzword until the internet evolved and delivered a wealth of information at a click of a button.

From the ‘old’ habit of evaluating media exposure by its equivalent advertising value, the number of attendees at a product launch, the response of the focus group to a well-crafted campaign narrative, and so on — all data-driven insights.

Today though, where big data was once the playground for the sales and marketing team, we’re now seeing PR and comms professionals chomping at the bit to get their hands on stats, facts, figures, trends and insights.

And it’s never been easier to analyse trends and sentiment. At Rowland, we’re developing machine learning and sentiment tools to decipher the rational and irrational habits of our audiences.

Where we would once invest heavily in market research to test sentiment, we now have subliminal research and sentiment opportunities at our finger tips, giving us the opportunity to tweak, validate and update messages in a heartbeat.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) of course is a game-changer. Rowland is investing in AI to streamline and disrupt our own traditional models of communication and engagement. We are building websites and services with the semantic web in mind — platforms that understand their user and serve up appropriate content.

It’s an exciting time for the industry. Data validates the great storytelling, data feeds storytelling … perhaps one day soon data may even replace the storyteller?