Data vis As information technology has grown, so has the impact of data on our lives. I’m calling this the new dicdataship. As data performs an increasingly important role in business, so too will it impact the work of the PR.

A few bits of data that have caught my eye in the last week or so:

  • The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story this week about the new industry that has emerged from the bulging data market (did I mention I’m in Sydney…). Data is valuable, so people are selling it. This is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a little bit unnerving. I’m sure most consumers would be upset to find out that their online habits are being tracked, and even more so that someone else is benefitting financially. Increasingly I’m sure we will be working with clients who either want to reassure customers that they are not selling their data, or indeed if they are selling it – that they are doing so responsibly. 
  • Wired is one of the historic champions of data, as is Guardian Technology whose Free Our Data campaign has been running for years. There is an awful lot of public data that isn’t public. Imagine what your commute would be like if TFL shared their data in real time, so you could avoid the trouble hotspots?
  • The Orange Group team at Edelman has spent the last few weeks working with Orange on the launch of their Orange Mobile Targeting Monitor and Exposure 2010 research. This tool will help advertisers better plan mobile marketing campaigns as the data gives real insight into current mobile behaviours. Check the microsite for more info.
  • We work with Last.fm who has a heritage in open APIs and data access. This awesome visualisation was recently developed to illustrate a listener’s daily musical habits.

So why have I suddenly got the data shakes? Well three fold:

  • The first two stories show that this is a pressing consumer issue. It may not be fully mainstream yet, but Joe Public will become increasingly concerned about what is done with his personal data. We have a responsibility to encourage the companies we work with to behave as transparently and responsibly as possible. 
  • The Orange Exposure research shows how advertisers and brands can use data to create more relevant conversations with consumers. As PRs we should also be looking at how data can inform the campaigns we build.
  • The Last.fm story shows how much fun can be had from data. Whether an infographic, a nifty visualisation, or a game. There’s a lot of potential both for creative, and informative builds.

If I look around at my PR peers, most of us come from an arts background. We studied literature, philosophy or history; we realised we were pretty good with words but journalists don’t get paid very well; we fell into PR. Erudite prose, charm and wit have got us thus far. I for one am rubbish with numbers. I suspect as our industry evolves alongside the rising dominance of data that it might be necessary for us to get a few more mathematicians in the room.

@LukeMackay

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