Data drives discussion

The title of my last post ‘Care about the code, not the data’ ruffled a few feathers amongst my comrades in PR. Big budgets are being spent on advertising campaigns pushing the concept of big data to businesses and frequently social talks from bandwagon PR practitioners touch on this jargon too. In the context of creating blogs, websites and microsites – caring about the code also means caring about data.

The title aims to show the intrinsic link between code and data. Unless the code is right then you can forget about reliable, readable or relevant data.

Data drives discussion

  • In politics, all election campaigns are driven by data and Obama’s election campaign serves as a unique example of this. He properly utilised ‘big data’, cross matching social media data with other relevant sources. Whilst ultimately people won the campaign, the entire process was driven by software managing datasets. Project Houdini would have revolutionised the Election Day ground game, although it failed on the day. Good data drives discussions around political issues, if you have the right tools for the job.
  • As exampled in previous social media network analysis posts, data can be used to map stakeholders online. This frames the context behind conversations and revolutionises how communication campaigns can be structured. It is here I must add that I was only able to undertake this research thanks to the support of my employer, Keene Communications.
  • Semantic analysis software exists and assists with the automatic detection of sentiment, topicality and key words of conversations. This is by the process of a computer breaking down syntactic structures to understand the language dependent meanings of phrases. It is a significant part of data capture as it attributes values to qualitative data, something once only a computer could do. Indeed, my last post focusing on is a foundational coding requirement for the future of the semantic web to be secured.

These are just three examples of data driving discussion. There are plenty more.

The point with the above examples is that they are driven by code. Without geeky brainpower and programming in the early hours of the morning, none of these technologies would exist. We wouldn’t have the data to analyse.

This is why code matters. This is why if you want to be in PR, you need to know the basics of coding. Still think caring about code is controversial? Then online PR or Public Affairs isn’t for you.

Care about the code, not the data

There are a growing number of public relations professionals who are not initiating blogging programmes with the latest technology available, thus stifling the future of the internet. This thought came to me after reading computer scientist, Frédérick Giasson’s blog post, ‘Forcing the Emergence of a New Web Paradigm’. In my view, if PR professionals want to execute digital marketing campaigns that include the creation of websites, blogs and microsites; they need to play by the latest rules of the web.

In this particular blog post of his, Giasson quotes a Search Engine Land post that states,

“More than one-third of Google’s search results incorporate rich snippets, but only a tiny fraction of websites are actually using the markup code… That’s according to a new Searchmetrics study out today that examined Google’s U.S. search results in March “for tens of thousands of keywords and over half a million web domains.”

The study found that 36.6 percent of Google’s search results include “at least one snippet with information derived from”

The most common integrations were the Movie and Offer types at 27 percent and 21 percent, respectively. After those two, TVSeries and Product tied for third.”

Schema org visualisation

Firstly, from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) perspective it is useful to note that 36.6% of Google’s search results contain at least one snippet derived from, even though only 0.3% of domains are using the markup code. Clearly there is a huge advantage for web owners to learn and implement snippets into their website for better web traffic from search engines. We need more web owners to start implementing future technologies into their websites, to make search better and so that better monitoring tools can be created.

Secondly, the research from Searchmetrics (as referenced by Giasson) shows how we are entering an era where structured data is being published to the internet. 0.3% domains sounds like a small about but in reality this is 150,000 websites (of 50 million analysed!). Structured data is becoming a big deal but the barrier to implementation is generally a lack of knowledge. I don’t think it would be outlandish for me to say that a lack of technological knowledge is holding back the PR industry. However, we’re not the only ones to blame – unless a good Content Management System (CMS) is revealed that can process snippets, then that 0.3% isn’t going to rise much.

Why is this a problem?
Using futuristic semantic web technologies is going to be a real difficulty unless web owners start to insert tags into their websites, assisting computers to understand the content of a web page, not just the coded structure. Although from a usability point of view, schema is insanely useful for quickly getting information across in search engines. Moz explains this very well through screenshots in this post.

I’ll focus on the real benefit of in a later blog post. Today though, this post is just one big juicy rant!

Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich [Book Review]

In an intensely chatty style that will keep readers craving for more, Spin Sucks is set to be my 2014 public relations book of the year. It will scare “old hats” in the industry with its strong emphasis on digital communication, and that is just one of the reasons I like it. Written by Gini Dietrich, this fresh new industry book takes its name from her intensely popular blog and can be purchased on Amazon now.

Spin Sucks book

When I first started studying PR in 2008, I had no idea of the unfolding digital revolution and how my own geeky skills could tie into the industry. If I could have read Spin Sucks back then, most of the questions in my head could have been solved. Each chapter has a heavy focus on digital, showing how blurred the boundary between digital marketing and public relations have become. Although some practitioners don’t want to admit it, digital is (in my view) now the only way meaningful relationships can be developed in a communications programme. Spin Sucks is a power advocate for this; Gini shows through personal stories and industry case studies just how important digital is. Although don’t underestimate the book, reading it is like chatting with an old friend, frankly sharing tips and tricks to get a PR programme flying.

The start of the book begins by plainly telling the reader how much the PR industry has changed; it’s becoming a lot more rocky. We need to accept that our carefully crafted media messages are not immune to being destroyed through a single 140 character tweet. In its most extreme form, this is something called radical transparency among industry theorists. Spin Sucks isn’t all doom and gloom though, the book identifies the challenges in the industry (such as ongoing content creation online) and quickly provides direction around the subject. It’s in this way that Gini should gain the trust of readers, solving problems and using her knowledge to rectify dilemmas in a reader’s head.

Some PR books and blogs would have you believe that social media plans are mostly constructed by a mixture of different platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Quora, etc. Indeed, that is the way I’ve seen many communications programmes planned, by the platform. It is also one of the main reasons why clients tend to reach out for agency help ‘We have all these social media channels but no idea how to use them or how they plug into a wider strategy’. A good strategy is often needed, that focusses on the right business objectives, with the right optimisations made to performance metrics (‘likes’, ‘followers’, ‘visits’, etc).

(c) Spin, Gini
(c) Spin, Gini

Spin Sucks doesn’t just focus on platforms, it tells stories of how a strategy could be built, which just goes to show how much Gini understands about online behaviours. The internet is full of these weird characters called trolls, of activities involving content scraping and search optimisation. No matter which internet stone you want to turnover to explore, Gini has probably covered it in Spin Sucks. The book provides a peek through the digital curtain (look or die).

Over the years I’ve attended plenty of training sessions with journalists describing what makes the perfect story in a bid to provide an even better service for clients. The one risk about digital PR books is that they can became too digital, losing what makes the PR industry tick. I’m pleased to say Spin Sucks does not fall into this trap.

At the very beginning of the book Gini reminds us that yes, sex does sell! We love it, in the media it could be characterised as being loud and relentless. Messages hammer away at our brains each day but we all know that a successful relationship cannot be built on sex alone, you need trust. It’s the same for organisations, you need trust. Build a communications strategy that tells a story people just want to learn more about, don’t spin it and be quick. Online commentary moves so quickly now that we can no longer plan a story for 4 days – it needs jumping on. In the way Spin Sucks takes what is needed about building a compelling story and thrusts it into the 21st Century. For some of us these parts of the book will act as a solid reminder to continue being brilliant, other practitioners may realise why they’re gradually shedding clients.

Whenever a blogger releases a book it’s always tempting to mentally tell yourself that you could save cash by just subscribing to the author’s blog. Just don’t. The book is such a useful and clear read that you would miss out by not having it. It’s a beautifully designed tangible product that the PR industry should be thankful to have.

Before you forget, do order your copy of Spin Sucks on Amazon. If you order it before Saturday 5th April 2014, email Gini a copy of your receipt and she’ll send you $200 worth of free webinars.

I was one of a selected bunch of bloggers by Spin Sucks to become a brand ambassador for Gini’s new book. This means I got to review the book in advance of its publication and help support its launch through social media. The words in this review are my honest opinion, not tampered in any way. 


Evidence! There is life on Google+

Google+ is notorious for being one of the social networks which is the most difficult to measure. Google just doesn’t provide a measurement dashboard in the same way that Facebook does. Cynics would say this because Google don’t want us to know how small their network is in comparison to other social networks. Personally I think Google is simply developing their platform gradually and haven’t yet worked out a measurement dashboard yet. Although there is a small feature which will allow you to get basic Google Analytic stats for your page if it’s connected to a website.

Yesterday evening Google introduced a “total views” stat to Google+ pages and accounts. From what I can see I do not think these are unique views and it’s only a top-line number. It isn’t broken down individually for each post yet (which is frustrating) and counts from October 2012. What is important to note: it looks like Google+ have ditched their +1 number stat in favour of the total views metric.

This would make a lot of sense. Early last year many digital agencies reported that the Google+ pages they managed on behalf of clients had seen a dramatic reduction in +1s. Only last week did we at Keene detect another drop of +1s across the network. To remove this stat altogether is a step in the right direction for Google+ and I’m pleasantly thrilled to find out that I have 32,000+ views of my profile!

Michael White Google+ profile

Let’s hope that Google continues to enhance the measurement capabilities of Google+ and this new feature shows the social media world how big the network has become.