More Firms Creating Their Own Data Analytics Systems

In case you missed it, last week brought a couple of stories that hinted at a new strategic direction for PR firms. As Hotwire PR’s Leslie Campisi put it in her guest post, data is the future of PR–and more major organizations are creating custom analytics systems to better shape media strategies, measure the influence of related campaigns and demonstrate the real-world value of their work to clients.

Porter Novelli confirmed that sentiment last week by announcing the development of its own “proprietary analytics system” designed to capture “the entire conversation taking place about a brand or organization” in all forms of media (yes, that includes print). CEO Karen Van Bergen explains that this new tool will enable the firm to more quickly respond to shifting public sentiments and media mentions/perceptions of its clients and campaigns. As we mentioned above, it will also empower the firm to more accurately present the results of various efforts to clients in the form of hard numbers.

We all know that measurement is a big part of inter-industry debates about the future of PR, and these two firms’ custom systems address the same problems in different ways. How will other major firms respond?

One of Campisi’s key points concerned the fact that many of the “influencer management tools” available to communications professionals are not specifically designed for the PR world and do not “understand” how PR folks do their jobs.

An interesting comment on that post by Matt Pierson, who formerly worked as senior manager of digital and social media analytics at Porter Novelli, concerned the ROI on custom systems like these. Pierson wrote that it is “…not cheap to get access to a trustworthy automated sentiment platform” and that, for many firms, the asset isn’t important or “core” enough to their services to justify the expense.

The question: what’s the most effective way to capture and utilize data as the industry moves into an increasingly digital future? Will more firms address the measurement challenge by creating their own custom tools, or will the investment provide too little in the way of returns for most PR professionals?