All PR departments should have a data warehouse.
“But we’re not Excel-people!”
In an email conversation with a subscriber, we discussed the adapting to a digital first world.
The subscriber told me about how challenging it was to get colleagues who love the alphabet to also love numbers.
And, in my experience of working with many different types of organisations, this challenge is not uncommon. I love the power of the written word, too.
But maths and code — they’re languages, too.
In fact, they’re the Esperanto of our time; a unifying set of global languages without borders.
The language of information technology is defining for our generation.
But I digress.
The time has come for communication professionals to step up and embrace the power of data-driven PR. But where to start?
I suggest investing in a data warehouse.
What’s a data warehouse?
‘Data warehouse’ is computing terminology, and it has nothing explicitly to do with public relations or marketing.
Here’s how Wikipedia describes a data warehouse:
“In computing, a data warehouse (DW or DWH), also known as an enterprise data warehouse (EDW), is a system used for reporting and data analysis and is considered a core component of business intelligence. DWs are central repositories of integrated data from one or more disparate sources. They store current and historical data in one single place and are used for creating analytical reports for knowledge workers throughout the enterprise.”
In other words:
Data you collect as an organization goes into a huge “Excel-document” for future analysis.
Not all data is created equal, though.
For example: You can’t combine your social media data with the data you collect on your website since these two data sets are structured differently.
This is why there are different types of programs tasked with restructuring all incoming data before storing it in your data warehouse.
Then, there are also different types of programs that will allow you to analyse and visualise your collected data. Otherwise, you’d just be sitting there, staring at lots of numbers in a massive spreadsheet.
So, that’s essentially what a data warehouse is.
Big data for public relations departments
But why is it necessary for public relations and marketing to invest in a data warehouse?
There are many advantages for communication professionals to collect and store all public relations and marketing data in one place:
Analysis. It’s more valuable to look at various data sets cross-referenced with each together.
Time. Pulling out and analysing data via a single interface is more time-efficient.
Compliance. Regulations like GDPR will reward organisations who is in total control of all their data.
Then, which types of data sets could be relevant for communication professionals to harvest, access, and cross-reference?
A few examples:
Social media data
Web analytics data
Email subscriber data
Market research data
Time report data
And so the list goes on.
Is your business sensitive to weather fluctuations, maybe? Why not import some geographic data?
The point here is that it’s always possible to increase the value of your combined data sets.
Be mindful of your harvest strategy. Data quality (not data volume) will determine the quality of your analysis.
There are, of course, laws and regulations to consider when collecting data, especially if you’re storing personal information — and especially in Europe. Make sure to be compliant.
As communication professionals, it’s not our job to set these data warehouses up. It’s not our job to make sure that they are secure and up and running. It’s not our job to manage the software that takes care of restructuring and analysis.
But it is our job to decide what PR-relevant data sets should go into the data warehouse — and we should do the analysis.
The future of PR is data-driven
I often hear this:
“It’s so difficult for us communications professionals to demonstrate ROI!”
“There’s so much data, but how do you make sense of it?”
“Our management doesn’t really understand the importance of ‘digital first’!”
All PR- and marketing-departments must learn to appreciate the value of a clean data set.
Otherwise, one of two things will happen:
1. Your data gets lost — forever.
2. Your data gets stored away somewhere out of reach for the PR department, never to be accessed again.
A data warehouse, on the other hand, will put all of that data at the PR departments fingertips.
Social media monitoring — the backbone of PR analysis
What’s the value of social media monitoring?
Most organisations invest in some form of online monitoring tool. Some of these tools are on the expensive side, too.
Most organizations are monitoring what’s being said about themselves and their competitors.
Some use monitoring tools to be able to detect issues early, like tsunami buoys acting as early warning systems.
And that’s all well and good.
But the real power of analysing social media data is social media intelligence.
The term social media intelligence is used by Whispr Group, a social media intelligence firm in New York and Stockholm, where I was the COO and lead strategist between 2010-2013.
Here’s the thing:
The real power of social media monitoring lies in the analysis of historical data. And to analyse historical data, you must store your data sets in an accessible way.
Imagine if you could analyze relevant data from years and years back. What otherwise hidden secrets and patterns would you find?1
How do you set up a data warehouse
For many communications professionals, the idea of getting into data-driven PR’ is indeed a scary concept.
But despite new channels, new tools, and new behaviours, what constitutes strategic communication haven’t changed.
The basic tenets are still the same — PR is still what you know and love. A little data (okay, a lot of data) isn’t going to change that.
And setting up a data warehouse is a one-time project, and then it mostly runs by itself.
So, how do you set one up?
You seek out a good B2B IT company or you ask your IT department. I would opt for an external agency most of the times, because I rather pay for a specific delivery to my specifications.
You say, “I want a data warehouse that pulls in all our marketing data into one place”.
Now, you get to do the fun part — diving into the data, creatively looking for answers, and coming up with new ideas and insights.