Big Data – the communications challenge

October 17th, 2013 Posted by thefuturestory 0 comments on “Big Data – the communications challenge”

Asking the right questions – an interview with Jacqui Taylor.
Following my workshop at the inaugural thefuturestory event and in response to feedback and questions I received, theblueballroom team has asked me to cover some more insights to help you  as communicators understand and act on the role of Big Data.

In essence, the key question has been what can be done right now by everyone working in the fields of communications, HR and strategy planning.

Firstly I thought a recap on the eight V’s of Big Data we use at FlyingBinary to determine what Big Data problem we are trying to solve would be useful.

The eight Vs of Big Data

Volume: This doesn’t necessarily mean huge volumes, just bigger volumes than you currently handle.

Velocity: When the speed of the data being received is faster than the speed at which you can process the data.

Variety: Unstructured, semi-structured or structured data of different types are now being blended together to develop a data ecosystem.

Variability: Context is important; by ‘orange’ do you mean the fruit or the telecoms company?

Value: This is the most interesting aspect for most of our CxOs (C-suite level managers) : how to drive value from the data you have. We have found that most companies are sitting on an ‘acre of diamonds’, but you’ve got to shift 10 tons of dirt to find it.

Volatility: How valid is the data? Last month’s stock figures are of limited use within a trading day.

Validity: How valid are your sources? Is it appropriate to use them in the way you are intending?

Viscosity: Relates to the infrastructure capability of some companies’ legacy systems or simply outdated approaches to data act as obstacles.


We have found that the majority of businesses are sitting on a mountain of data which needs to be understood, but how?

“That’s not the right question to ask as the starting point. Rather, businesses should be asking themselves, ‘what am I attempting to do?’ From that, they can ask ‘what data do I need to look at?’ The process is collaborative – businesses need to build teams which contain people who understand the data itself as well as people who are good at numbers – numbers people will help to build the data. Both sets of people need to learn these new techniques of finding the value in data.”

Talking about the value that you find in data, what new approaches and skills are needed to deliver this value?

“We call this locating the acre of diamonds. Every time we go into a company we start with the data they have – they may need something to add to that, but we always find value in that existing data.

Data that you already have will give you insight to enable you to deliver more benefit to your business and to you. Some of this is about what you are already doing, but doing this better.”

Some people fear that Big Data is actually all just Big Brother – helping the Government and sales teams by using our personal information for their own gain, how is our data really being used?

“80% of the data you already have can be used in more effective ways. Businesses should use more of that existing data to make more intelligent approaches to customers. Developing ‘intelligence’ which is then actionable is what is being missed.

There are a plethora of services that people sign up for where they are getting some kind of free service as a result. When you look at this, by not paying for something, you are effectively allowing that company to use your data for free.

For example, LinkedIn – if I pay for a LinkedIn account, then I have a right to know what is happening to my data. If I’m using the free option then I have no say over what is happening to my data.”

PR Professionals are very aware that there are multiple ways – channels – to reach customers. How can web-based data best be used to create opportunities for better customer comms?

“One of the characteristics of social data is that people will be candid in their opinions. Whereas employee or customer satisfaction surveys can often be met with a groan, Big Data approaches can share the voice of the customer more authentically. The opportunity for communicators is to use these new channels for dialogue – creation of advocacy that goes beyond engagement.

This is a brand new world for communicators to get involved in. Currently PR style engagement is ineffective on the social web as it is being used as a broadcast medium. If PR Professionals use the social web in an authentic way they will develop a whole new audience. Communicators need to be authentic – people will love you for that. Those companies who explore this new social world will benefit in the long term from the relationships they build with their customers.”

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