The Internet is exploding and you no longer have to be an IT guy to experience the impact. Whether you active in PR, Communications, Marketing or even HR or Finance, you can’t escape from terms like digital transformation, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence etc.

Another term is big data. The amount of data at our disposal is growing exponentially. The opportunities for PR, marketing and communication are growing at the same time. Every minute tons of new Facebook status updates appear, as well as YouTube videos, and Snapchat stories: in other words, data. If, in the near future, our household appliances start ‘talking’ to each other, there will be even more digital chatter. Add to that the huge amount of data being produced by companies, research institutes and government bodies each and every day. All this data may seem endless, but they are certainly not useless.

Whoever manages to establish connections between this data is sure of success. Many companies are investing heavily in data mining to find out more about their clients. Nowadays ‘data scientists’ are also to be found in the field of journalism. Internationally, The Guardian and The New York Times are leading the field, as is often the case. Closer to home, it’s worth following the efforts of De Tijd and L’Echo. The work of Maarten Lambrechts is well worth a look. Lambrechts is an expert in data visualisation and his infographics are both attractive and elucidating. His personal website is a very good place to start if you are interested in data.

Using data for PR

PR seems to be lagging behind in these developments. Too bad, because we could use it to make PR more effective. A lot of interesting background information is just there for the taking: with a little bit of help from Google, of course.

Nowadays, we no longer need to wait for extensive market research to interpret the social significance of new trends. Thanks to Google Trends you follow the most commonly used search terms in our country in real time. This is extremely handy if you want to respond quickly to the news. It is even possible to follow and compare changes in the popularity of specific search terms. For instance, it doesn’t take long to find the most popular social network in the country (at least according to searches) during the past 12 months. Google even provides an overview of related searches and an option for comparing the same query in different regions and countries.

Google trends

Google’s ‘consumer barometer‘ helps you to understand how consumers, people, use the Internet. For instance, Belgian internet users prefer short videos, especially if they are watching them on their smartphone.

The government also has a mountain of very interesting data. Check out the website of the Belgian National Institute for Statistics or its European equivalent Eurostat. Can’t make sense of it? The government makes a huge effort to provide clear and transparent information. See data.gov.be, the open data portal of the Federal Government. Of course, there’s always Google. See its Public Data project for example. Just upload your ‘data sets’ and Google will do the rest.

Imagine, for example, that one of your clients is in the chemistry sector, in a company like BASF and they want to write a speech or press release about employment in that sector. You will be able to find a wealth of interesting information online. The National Social Security Office keeps meticulous records and there is plenty of easily accessible information at data.gov.be. You could even find the average gross monthly salary, as this is monitored by the Federal Public Service for Economy and published on the same website. And we could go on about this for a while…

Are you seeing the opportunities? Because this is just the tip of the iceberg. The only thing you still have to do is to visualise the data. Naturally, things still have to look good, don’t they? Of course, there are lots of handy tools to help you with that, especially if you don’t excel at Excel. There’s Datawrapper, for example, or Infogr.am, a tool that I got to know through PRstack. This is my most recent tip.

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