Jenni Newman PR’s senior account director, Kate Kenny, speaks to media update’s Adam Wakefield about how data has changed public relations and what the future might hold.

How have data and insight changed public relations?

In the age of Twitter polls, Survey Monkey, insights, online research, meta-data, and advanced data analytics, there are a multitude of informal and formal tools that experienced PR practitioners can use to their advantage before, during, and after campaigns to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Using this data is an effective manner to gauge sentiment and opinions regarding brands, concepts, or behaviours prior to embarking on a campaign, and also to measure success. This is a far more beneficial manner of showcasing PR achievements rather than AVE or coverage values. Attitude shifts and behaviour changes are key deliverables in many PR campaigns.

Using insights when creating a communications campaign is certainly not a new concept and data has long directed campaigns. However, it is considerably easier to acquire data using social media and online tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights and quick opinion polls can give near instant feedback.

How should PRs be using data in the planning of their campaigns?

Prior to starting any campaign, informal or formal research should be done with the key stakeholders. This is especially important with a media audience, understanding their needs, requirements, and perceptions is important before embarking on communications.

Is it possible to rely on data too much when working a campaign and its impact?

There can certainly also be a data-overload when vast marketing research can be daunting and not always relevant. Communications professionals must sort through the background data to ensure they focus on what is most important to use to direct their campaign or key messages.

How do you see data and insight changing public relations in the next three to five years?

More data will make PR successes and failures more and more transparent in future years, the immediacy of Twitter, for instance, can very quickly ensure a brand gets instant positive feedback or negative criticism regarding campaign concepts or brand behaviours.

For instance, the positive reactions of Twitter users to #KnysnaFire assistance from brands quickly shows strong endorsement of many of the brands offering assistance and pledging transport, food, water, or courier services such as Spur, DHL, Kulula, Uber, Makro, Give of the Givers, NSRI, and the financial donations from various financial institutions.

The quick Twitter response, praise, and support through donations shows these brands have successfully created a positive brand halo during this time of need. This can also work conversely when there are immediate negative reactions to brand campaigns that are seen as tacky, tasteless, or capitalising on a negative scenario.

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The PR business has been disrupted by the digital revolution, but according to The Holmes Report’s Arun Sudhaman, this means there is more opportunity than ever. Read more in our article, Arun Sudhaman: There’s never been a better time to be in PR.