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predictive analytics for public relations

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Predictive analytics may soon give public relations teams a crystal ball that foretells public reactions to corporate actions, media coverage and PR campaigns.

Predictive analytics, advocates say, will use artificial intelligence to crunch massive amounts of data from web analytics, customer relationship management systems, social media monitoring services and other sources to predict consumer behavior. The technology will provide insight into consumer sentiment and guide PR crisis responses and overall PR strategies. Some have said that ability to predict the future will grant PR professionals instant superpowers.

PR pros are wondering when their own PR agency or department will benefit from predictive analytics. Although artificial intelligence frequently ranks among the top PR trends that pundits cite, measurement experts question how soon it will impact most PR outfits.

Got Data?

PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, says predictive analytics won’t benefit most PR outfits anytime soon. “It’s just too complex a process to apply to most organizations,” Paine asserts.

To be effective, artificial intelligence requires millions of data points and ideally three years’ worth of data. Most PR pros are thrilled if they can win 25 earned media mentions a month, and many started tracking them only recently. Organizations that have enough data represent less than10 percent of PRSA membership, Paine estimates.

Most PRSA members work for small- to medium-sized organizations, many in government or non-profits. “They barely have budgets for communications, never mind measurement. And technology has never been PR’s strong point,” Paine says. “So, it is not realistic to assume that these organizations have the bandwidth and technical knowledge required to use artificial intelligence for predictive analytics.”

For now, only the largest corporations will employ predictive analytics, and not necessarily always effectively. For most, it will remain a fabulous dream, she concludes.

Advanced Technical Expertise Requires

Effective predictive analytics requires professionals with advanced technical expertise, including developers, data scientists, and data-driven PR professionals, says Christopher Penn, vice president, marketing technology, at Shift Communications. Few organizations have all three. Most PR departments and agencies are lucky to have even one, largely due to cost, Penn says. Developers and data scientists cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year each.

Once predictive capabilities become available to general business users, enterprising PR professionals will adapt the software to PR-specific tasks, Penn predicts. Few, if any, vendors will design software solely for the PR industry. “However, just as data-driven PR professionals have embraced Google Analytics, sophisticated social media monitoring, and customer journey mapping with data, so too will they embrace predictive tools in daily PR work,” Penn predicts.

The best option for many organizations may be to learn how to gather and analyze large amounts of data in order to build a storehouse for future use. Not just any data will do.

Predictive analytics, Penn notes, requires data that’s:

  • Clean – not corrupted or erroneous.
  • In compatible formats such as comma-separated value (CSV), structured query language (SQL) or tab-separated value (TSV) files.
  • Chosen well – which means it has the right amount of detail. Ideal sources include Web analytics, public data sources, and social media measurement and media monitoring systems.

Bottom Line: Predictive analytics has not transformed PR professionals into soothsayers with magical powers – at least not yet. Although few PR agencies or departments expect to benefit from predictive analytics soon, savvy data-driven PR teams are enhancing their data collection and analysis with first-class media monitoring and measurement and other tools.