1 November 2022

Data decisions in public relations

In public relations professional circles, a debate is raging. Okay, not raging. Simmering coquettishly, maybe? Anyway, the question is whether is it better to describe oneself as data-driven or data-informed?

Decision-making with a digital edge

But, what does data-driven (or data-informed) communications actually mean? 

Put simply, it means to make informed decisions based on data and research. “How else have we been making decisions?”, you may well ask. 

Well, the difference is that, while (good) PR and communications practitioners have always made decisions based on a mixture of experience, intuition, and available information, the real world of PR is getting more and more digital, meaning some decisions that would have been made purely by humans in the past can now be made by computers, based on raw data. 

A good example of this in action is when you use Google’s automatic settings to set up a Google Ads campaign. You basically input some of your own data to Google about your products, services and geography, and then Google uses its own data about the regularity of search entries related to your products and services, suggests key search terms and then basically runs the ad campaign on your behalf.

Data differences

The difference between being data-driven and data-informed, it is argued, is that the former refers to decisions made based purely on the data, while being data-informed involves taking the raw data and applying some human input (the aforementioned experience and intuition) before making a decision. 

The logic in this will be apparent to anyone who has suffered data-driven remarketing across their social feed. You know the feeling: “I already bought those shoes, thanks!” or “I just booked a holiday. It doesn’t mean I immediately want to book another!” or “Okay, I know I’m a male over 45 but…” Okay, let’s not go there. 

Basically, computers are very clever, yes. But they do get things wrong. Sometimes very wrong. And when it comes to reputation management, a simple “oops”, no matter how heartfelt, will never really cut it.

Human-centred first

So good public relations is not quite ready (yet) to become the domain of the robots, but a human-driven profession, with some robotic help. 

Used well, digital data can help PR professionals not only identify trending topics and inspire creative engagement, it can also help us monitor what content is chiming with our audiences and what isn’t. So, while making decisions based on information is not exactly a new idea, it does make a nice new shiny buzzword. Hurrah. 

Share via: