8 insights into young people’s attitudes towards banking

Graduation

Disruption defines technology’s role in challenging traditional business models by creating a ‘sharing economy’ or innovating to replace archaic products or services. It’s about iPhone VS. Blackberry, Airbnb VS. hotel industry, Amazon VS. highstreet booksellers, famously Uber VS. black cabs. The one industry on the precipice of disruption is financial services, more specifically, retail banking – its ‘uber moment’ is approaching.

Disruption in the simplest sense is a market adapting to meet public expectations. That’s why Good Rebels and Revoo’s ‘Bank to the Future’ report looking at 16 – 25 year olds attitude towards banks and everyday banking is so crucial. They are current customers and customers of the future, growing up in a space where investment in fintech products has ballooned over the last three years.

In a presentation at Lansons, Good Rebels ran through the executive summary of their findings. It’s clear that the financial services sector radically underestimates this consumer group. Banks need to be smarter with data, be even more transparent with how services work, be supportive by speaking an understandable language, and be convenient.

Thanks to Laura Dinneen (@lauradinneen) I’ve now read through the whole report picking out key pieces of insight. There is a lot more information in the full report and you can see the panel debate that took place last year below. If you have any questions, drop me a comment or give Laura, the real expert, a shout.

Bank to the future – panel discussion from Reevoo on Vimeo.

#1 Ambitious and optimistic with global outlook

16 – 25 year olds strive to achieve more in life, focus on developing new skills, and have a passion for social issues. Social media has opened up activism on a global scale for them but has also reinforced the need for validation in themselves. From a global perspective, 39% strongly agree that they want to live and work abroad, with 72% wanting to explore the world around them – not as ‘tourists’ but travellers, getting hands on with world cultures.

#2 ‘Always on’ culture

71% say that they are constantly connected online and 53% say it’s critical that they must be contactable at all times. This means the mobile phone is more important than their wallet, not just for connectivity but potentially because mobiles can now be used as a digital wallet with contactless payments. Giving personal details to companies online isn’t a worry, but it must be for the right reasons – a worthy trade-off.

#3 Plugged into the online reputation economy

They seek expert opinion before buying products and services, with the internet playing an important part of this. However, once they find a brand they like it’s common that they stick with it. Demonstrating the importance of getting the consumer experience right for long-term customer loyalty. Although this could be endangered if the company in question has a social issue, clashing with the first insight.

#4 Attitude towards money

It’s worth remembering that life experience varies immensely between 16 – 25 year olds; from students, undergraduates, and young adults in work. The research identifies five different money-types in the age group. This ranges from those heavily dependent on their parents, a group suspicious of modern banking procedures such as online banking, those classed as ‘adults in training’ experimenting with a range of money products, super users who are confident with their finances, and the checked out who are pessimistic about their financial future.

#5 Financial journey, a story of dependent to independent

There are three key financial milestones. Around the age of 14 a part-time job or handling one-off payments such as birthday money aligns with choosing a bank account – occasionally moving away from one setup by parents. The second is going to university that means looking at student accounts, credit cards, or even short-term loans. The third is graduation, having your own home, or receiving a first full-time pay check, leading to shopping around for financial products to fit (also dealing with debt from University).

#6 Savings and investments

It may surprise you, but 72% do have some form of saving or investment, but its older age groups who have the larger investments. Cash, savings and pensions rank highly, but so are alternative investments such as gold, art and antiquities.

#7 Finance back on the agenda since Brexit

Interest in the economy has been on the decline for the last three years, but 2016 saw a resurgence of interest, possibly due to Brexit. Despite this, overall levels of interest in personal finance/investments is down for 16 – 25 year olds, with proportional increase of interest per older age groups.

#8 There are major pain points

There are a few major pain points when it comes to the relationship between 16 – 25 year olds and banks.

Attitudes towards banking

These are:

  • Banks not speaking an understandable language. There is a lot of frustration as the language of banking is full of jargon and terms difficult to understand. This age group crave straight-talking and impartial advice.
  • Lack of personalisation. Many feel banks view them as just a number and this age group responds by feeling no particular loyalty towards their bank. Feeling undervalued means shopping around online for another deal.
  • Exploitation, the banks just want my money. I can personally relate to this one as moving from a student current account to a standard one can cause havoc with managing overdrafts.
  • Banks look down on young people as they have less money. This was a significant feeling, especially as the age group felt banks didn’t trust them with sensible financial decisions.
  • Banking technology is limited. This is just a fact for the younger generation who have grown up with smartphones, needing constant connection to the internet. Seamless online banking still needs developing to catch-up with the other activities this age group do through their smartphone. Someone in the study switched banks because theirs didn’t support Android Pay.

Do read the full study for more information and if you have any questions leave a comment or get in touch on social media.

 

Download #FuturePRoof book: The biggest conversation around the future of PR

I’ve got a lot of time for a book that begins,

“There’s never been such a good time to work in public relations.”

Yet it has become clear that no matter how I write this blog post it will not properly represent the sheer breadth of knowledge, wisdom and insight found in the crowd-sourced #FuturePRoof book launched today. The book presents the largest conversation around the future of public relations to date; I’ve been absorbing and dissecting chapters for a few days, resisting the urge of spurting out spoilers before the agreed embargo.

No matter if you’re a practitioner, academic, or student, if your business is public relations or another facet of marketing, get #FuturePRoof today. It is available as a free download and copies are priced £25.99 from Blurb.

#FuturePRoof1

Explore the book’s colossal 33 chapters that describe emerging areas of practice such as PR’s move towards paid, mapping workflow and freelance business models, as well as cover more traditional topics such as measurement and evaluation, ethics and stakeholder management.

It’s received a multitude of endorsements from high-profile figures across the industry, including the ‘father’ of PR 2.0, Brian Solis; Director General of the PRCA, Francis Ingham; Partner/Editor-in-Chief of The Holmes Report, Arun Sudhaman.

“PR = Public Relations, which means people are at the centre of everything. Sarah reveals how the PR world is changing and why the time is now to advance your work in communications.” – Brian Solis

It’s no easy feat crowd-sourcing a 200+ page book so a special acknowledgment goes to PR consultant and agency owner Sarah Hall who edited and curated the project. Also don’t miss the foreword by Ketchum’s Chief Engagement Officer, Stephen Waddington, who hints at a possible #FuturePRoof working community in the future.

In the next few days I will publish my own unofficial #FuturePRoof chapter on this blog as a means of continuing the conversation that the book will inevitably start. For the moment though, find a list of the contributors’ chapters below, with some familiar names from the also recently launched #PRStack 2 book.

#FuturePRoof chapters and contributors

  1. The purpose of public relations Mike Love


A view on the purpose of public relations. What it’s for, why we do it and how PR can contribute to the success of organisations and the people who work in them.

  1. Communicating with conscience; influencing organisational leaders to do the right thing Professor Anne Gregory

Why the public relations industry must prioritise people over process, profits and power.

  1. The opportunity for public relations Dr Jon White


How public relations advisors can help business, political and other leaders deal with increasing complexity in the challenges they face.

  1. Defining competency and skills in public relations is a critical issue Stephen Waddington

Why competency frameworks are critical for benchmarking practitioners and continuous professional development.

  1. The value of PR Andrew Bruce Smith


The value of PR can and must be calculated in terms of its contribution to meaningful economic and societal impact. Anything less risks, at best, the marginalisation of PR or at worst, its
obsolescence.

  1. Reputation and the digital plc Mary Whenman


In the era of the digital plc, reputation risk is now the biggest risk concern in the boardroom. UK businesses need five set attributes to be fit for purpose.

  1. Building a PR team that works Ross Wigham


Building a successful team that gels together and performs well is an intrinsically difficult
task. Following key principles can ensure you have the right mix of skills, roles and responsibilities in a fast changing world.

  1. Understanding the basic business model for a ‘time-based’ professional service Neil Backwith

Only by understanding the connection between fees, time and resourcing can you properly control your profitability.

  1. The principles behind managing a successful comms department Ruth Allchurch

How to maintain best practice and profitability in a constantly evolving business landscape.

  1. Everyday professional ethics for PR: trusting discomfort Johanna Fawkes


Being ethical in PR needn’t be about who you work for or how you handle major conflicts, but can be how you go about your everyday work. This section looks at ethics in practice.

  1. #FuturePRoofing a public relations agency or communications team Jim Hawker

How PR professionals can equip themselves with the tools and mindset that the modern day practitioner needs, not just to survive, but to thrive.

  1. Client relationship management: many happy returns? Steve Earl


We need, want and should even relish negotiation, budgeting and contracts, because they’re central ingredients in achieving happy clients and happy agencies.

  1. What clients look for from a comms team Alistair Smith


Navigating the client satisfaction challenge – how to agree shared goals, deliver on target and build a lasting relationship between a client and agency.

  1. Stakeholder management: nobody likes surprises Liz Davies


Ten top tips for good stakeholder management that will stand the test of time.

  1. Budgeting: why the time has come to look beyond hours Alex Myers


The key for the future of PR is not simply to predict and measure resource requirements better, but to reject the hourly-rate myth and use a new, ground up budgeting process.

  1. Measurement and evaluation John Brown


Communications reports that go beyond coverage numbers and share of voice in the media are far more useful documents to the C-Suite.

  1. Technology, tools and workflow: making sense of the maze Angharad Welsh


How to determine which technology, tools and work-flow are right for you and the organisations you work for before the smart work begins.

  1. How automation changes PR workflow Scott Guthrie


Use automation to increase the amount of time you have to be human.

  1. What value does paid media hold for the PR industry? Stella Bayles


Paid media presents a huge opportunity for the future PR team if it’s part of an integrated paid, owned, shared and earned model.

  1. Agile working Betteke van Ruler


Moving away from traditional planning processes can help practitioners become much more agile and deliver greater success with PR programmes.

  1. Business development: how to embrace digital disruption and develop new services to meet changing client requirements and grow revenue Darryl Sparey


How the #FutureProof PR can utilise all the technology and tools that are both established and emerging right now, to get in front of their new prospects, tell a compelling story and win business.

  1. Investing in sustainable professional development Heather Yaxley


Sustainable professional development is essential in an increasingly complex world. This chapter offers practical ideas and tools to create a learning culture, develop a learning and development strategy and demonstrate sustainable return on investment.

  1. How to generate more leads and work through your network Jonathan Bean

How to build and utilise a network to generate new leads and work.

  1. Working across international borders Toomas Kull


What to consider when expanding a communications business internationally, opening a new office in a foreign market and when engaging with international clients.

  1. Developing a creative movement Simon Shaw and Richard Millar


From Bauhaus to Google; each are creative movements of their time with famous creative cultures, a magnetism for talent and unique and unexpected outputs. How can we develop our own Creative Movement for today’s communication landscape?

  1. Communicating in ways that drive business growth Gini Dietrich

Learn what should be included in your communications plan that can be measured against business growth.

  1. Practising inbound PR: how comms teams can practise what they preach Iliyana Stareva

Inbound PR is not just about the media, it’s about you doing your own PR with your own content on your own channels.

  1. How to attract the right talent for your business and hang on to them Sarah Leembruggen

Learn how to achieve a clearly defined recruitment strategy and the processes needed in order to attract, hire and hold onto the cream of the PR professional crop.

  1. The freelance economy: from revolution to evolution George Blizzard and Nicky Imrie

This chapter explores the growing economy of freelancing and its impact on the global communications landscape. It covers the drivers behind this new ‘third way’ and how to manage dispersed teams, as well as practical tips and helpful technology.

  1. Building a motivated team: the dream HR manifesto Jack Hubbard


If you want your employees to put their heart and soul into the company, the company must put its heart and soul into its people.

  1. Surviving and thriving in PR Claire Murphy


How PR practitioners can develop more healthy and sustainable ways of working.

  1. The business case for diversity Farzana Baduel


Businesses wanting to secure competitive advantage need to embrace diversity. BME inequality, gender imbalance and a lack of opportunities for the less fortunate are all issues the PR industry needs to get to grips with.

  1. Mind the pay gap: how to achieve parity in PR Sarah Hall


Ten steps we can all take right now to make parity in the workplace a reality.

 

The city’s skyline predicts its future

Situation: Stood at a cocktail bar overlooking the city.

Man: You can always tell when money has returned to the city. The cranes rise up from the ashes of the recession. What a sight.

Me: You believe money ever truly left the city?

Man: Of course not. It was a tough time, the city was on hold, but normality is now returning.

Me: The tourists have a better understanding about the value of London. It’s history. You travel around the world and visit all types of cities. Each have their own charm, but none of the allure of London. It’s intoxicating.

Man: Like this champagne! Tell you what. See that building over there. That one. With the two pillars. Can you guess what the was and why it’s important?

Me: Believe it used to be a school or university.

Man: It was. More precisely Winston Churchill’s university before he began a career in politics. Today people walk past without a second glance and it’s lost against the development of the city (pointing to Blackfriars Station). Even the tourists miss it.

Me: But the cranes now tell people a different story. One like this evening’s talk. It’s social media, the growth of fintech. It’s what the city is getting known for by tourists and businesses alike. In fact, those demographics don’t even make sense anymore – on social media I am both a tourist and a digital marketer.

Man: True. But we have a lot to learn yet. The people who put up those cranes still don’t realise that their shiny buildings won’t protect them from the disruption of digital.

Me: Watch this skyline then. With a cocktail. Who knows what this view will look like in the next five  years.

What is the health of blogging in 2015?

When weblogs (shortened to blog) first launched innovators in the media industry began predicting a restructuring of the media landscape that would see mass job losses and the displacement of trust in journalists, going to citizen journalists instead. No needs for communication intermediaries, blogs give laymen the voice that outsmarts the ‘professionals’.

In reality, the change has been more complex.

In 2015 we know that:

  • Organisations use blogs to communicate with customers and journalists;
  • Newspapers use blogs as opinion sections;
  • It’s becoming increasingly difficult to identify a blog from a mainstream media source (e.g. How would you categorise the Huffington Post?);
  • Blogging communities exist (such as travel bloggers) but they broadly work with or in competition with mainstream journalists.

What does this mean for the health of blogging in 2015? Ofcom’s report on “Adults’ media use and attitudes” gives us some answers.

Key insights around the health of blogging

  1. The proportion of internet users who have ever set up a website or a blog has increased slightly, but only slightly (21% in 2005 to 27% in 2014);
  1. The majority of online activities have increased over the last ten years. However, maintaining a website or blog has maintained around the same levels since 2005;
  1. There has been a decrease since 2013 in the number of people doing creative things on the internet (making a blog, sharing photos, producing videos). This is attributed to internet users having less confidence in their abilities;
  1. In terms of online activities, on a weekly basis: 30% of internet users link to websites or online articles, 22% upload photos or videos, 22% make or receive telephone or video calls, 19% contribute comments to a website or blog.
  1. Interestingly (through the lens of blogging): 60% of adults believe that some websites will be accurate and unbiased, whilst 23% say that if a website (or blog) appears in a search engine result then the content must be accurate. These figures have remained similar to results in 2009.

Public perceptions of banking on Twitter

This blog post was first published on the Lansons blog here

Dipping into the sea of public opinion to analyse perceptions of the banking culture is an expectantly gruelling process. It was never going to be positive, although it’s not as gruelling compared to some of the comments that were made during The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in 2012;

“The professions may not be paragons but they do at least espouse a strong duty of trust, both towards clients and towards upholding the reputation of the profession as a whole. In contrast… banking culture has all too often been characterised by an absence of any sense of duty to the customer and a similar absence of any sense of collective responsibility to uphold the reputation of the industry”.

Ouch.

Following the Commission’s report in 2013 a new wave of change now sweeps across the industry, with the newly established Banking Standards Board tasked with promoting a high standard of behaviour and competence across the UK banking industry (Chief Executive, Alison Cottrell is speaking at our upcoming Future of Financial Services Conference on the 2nd June 2015 – tickets available here).Klout scores newspapers Twitter

Banking influencersLansons has a number of digital specialists continuously monitoring social media for emerging issues; including the perception of banking. Unsurprisingly, the most influential Twitter users discussing bank related matters are newspapers, political parties and prominent organisations such as British Airways. Using Klout scores is certainly not a fool proof method of rating influence online; as this article in Wired explains (you need to take real-world influence into account). topic wheel twitter bankHowever, Klout does show that in terms of online share of voice, it’s a big mistake to dismiss newspapers.

Banking conversationsThis information has been gathered from January 2015 – April 2015 (before the sharp increase of election tweets). The wheel infographic to the right represents a collection of 60,137 tweets from conversations about banking. The inner circle shows the words mentioned most frequently which are then segregated into more specific topics and phrases. In summary:

Bankers
This word encapsulates the primary focus of our search; the public perception of banking culture. Unfortunately it includes scathing references to “Eton Old Boys”. The word “bonus” which has become synonymous with banking features in conversations about public sector cuts and the ‘benefits culture’. There are also phrases featured closely with campaign groups – Eg. “Tories just stole all public land/property for the Bankers”.

Trust
Trust is not only featured in chatter around the Carroll Trust fraud case but also in relation to George Osborne’s pre-election warning that “Deutsche Bank warn of chaos of Labour government. Trust them, they know.”

Bad, Good and Bank Account
This captures personal comments from Twitter users about their bank balance or shopping excursions; unrelated from bank culture and an insight into the buying behaviours of the public. With a larger and more targeted dataset these conversations could indicate periods of credit and debit booms.

Clearly this is just a small snapshot of a much wider debate around the culture of banking in the UK. It is a glimpse into the task ahead for the Banking Standards Board and their march towards industry professionalism.

This blog post provides a social media snapshot of the public perception of banking on Twitter. For similar insights and deeper discussion, consider attending Lansons’ Future of Financial Services Conference on the 2nd June 2015 to hear Chief Executive of the Banking Standards Board, Alison Cottrell, talk about the culture of banking – along with other prominent industry leaders.

Where social media won in the election (#GE2015)

Nobody predicated the 2015 General Election would end with a Conservative majority. Frustrating, as that was going to be my optimistic bet Thursday morning. Even the exit polls Thursday evening showed mixed opinions (although the BBC’s was certainly in my favour). To quote the comedian Tim Vine “Exit polls are on the way out” and that’s exactly the public reaction today.

What isn’t on the way out is social media and its effectiveness. As far as I’m aware, the only serious study to understand if social media can predict election outcomes was conducted by the University of Warwick (their latest post here). Other studies were the product of social insight tools marketing their abilities. Although you don’t need to be a mathematician to know people do not always tell the truth in public, for pollsters or Twitter.

University of Warwick are using Twitter to predict the outcome of the UK General Glection
University of Warwick are using Twitter to predict the outcome of the UK General Election

Where did social media win in the General Election 2015?
If you want to run an effective political campaign then the blueprint has to be the Obama campaign in 2008. It changed the rules of election campaigning because, through its success, proved that social media could be used for real-world results. The secret ingredient was community. It’s the heartland of social media.

It’s the birthplace of the social web, 4Chan and IRC chatrooms, the forum systems that provoke debate. Community is how Wikipedia became a crowdsourced intellectual database that signalled the death of Microsoft’s Encarta.

Blue State Digital devised Obama’s 2008 and 2012 digital campaigns, which were powered by a social media community platform. A platform very similar (or the same – difficult to tell) to NationBuilder. This was the social platform chugging away in the background for political parties in the UK. Without wanting to sound like a sales pitch, it connects people who use social media to real-world campaigns, driving results. The way in which it connects offline and online community efforts is astonishing, and was part of the reason why the Obama campaign was so successful… twice.

Just look at the bottom of your emails from the Liberal Democrats: email “printed (hosted by) NationBuilder”. I guess they would use the tool, they did help develop it. Anyone can choose to purchase this tool today and it was part of the hidden armoury of political parties in the UK during this General Election. Although where campaigns got really exciting was in the marginal seats.

NationBuilder

Highly targeted social media in political campaigns
Lynton Crosby: the man who really won the election for the Tories”, one of the most popular Guardian articles post-election, the subtext now part of his legacy. It explains how the Conservatives won through a highly targeted national campaign, focusing on voters in the marginal seats that mattered. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to work on the initial stages of a Conservative candidate’s election campaign – getting into the detail of where gains could be made. I was undercover – sometimes candidates choose to hire professionals from London to inject new approaches into their leafy constituencies.

The trick with using social media isn’t to simply setup a Facebook Page or a Twitter profile, then mindlessly broadcast updates. To be honest, it’s not even that effective running these social media channels in an election campaign focusing on just building engagement (e.g. likes, retweets, favourites, comments, etc.). Use these metrics as guidance, but the ultimate aim is election outcome – a real-world impact on state of mind, therefore voting behaviour.

There were candidates during the election who were using ward data to understand constituency voting behaviour, then micro-targeting these voters via social media. We know that one of the ways in which the Conservatives helped reach this goal was through targeting marginal seats through Facebook advertising. I know that a couple of candidates used social media monitoring insight tools to GPS target Twitter users.

The Conservatives used Facebook Advertising
The Conservatives used Facebook Advertising

Outside of these activities, certain MPs stand out as making the best use of social media. The new Conservative MP for my area, Paul Scully, was brave enough to try a growing social media app called CliqStart to rally real-world support. The previous Liberal Democrat MP for my area, Paul Burstow, frequently shared newsletters and was supported in his Councillor wife’s blog. Just across the constituency boundary, Liberal Democrat MP, Tom Brake, held Facebook surgeries.

Paul Scully used CliqStart
Paul Scully used CliqStart

The truth is it’s the large-scale untargeted social media activity that gets noticed. Highly targeted social media tends to fly under the radar. Social media was used extensively throughout this election in my professional circles, but mostly under the radar.

Opportunities were missed
Opportunities were missed during the election:

  • Engaging youth and non-engaged voters: A report published at the end of last year by DEMOS called “Like, Share, Vote” explored how social media could be used to engage the disenfranchised youth and non-engaged voters. At the launch of the report talks explored social media gamification methods, using rich media to instil support, and integrating offline methods into the digital space. The truth is more work could have been done to engage young voters during this election but parties are not interested because most just don’t vote. This election we saw a 58% turnout of young voters. A small rise but not enough to warrant serious campaign investment.
  • Integrating digital into Government: At the start of this year the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy was published. It explored the ways in which digital could be used in elections, including electronic voting, updating laws so they understand digital and how to facilitate political discourse on social media. This all needs to happen over the next five years for a ‘thoroughbred’ social media election in 2020.
  • Integrating digital into local campaigns: Whilst there were examples of good practice during this election, more could have been done. Local newspapers still seemed to be the primary mouthpiece of propaganda! It’s old hat and online communities of volunteers could have been mobilised across the country. It’s a point I believe Stephen Waddington makes in his post “Social media didn’t win anything”. Although I must kindly disagree that this wasn’t a social media election – I’ve done too much public affairs based work to claim this.

Nobody predicted the outcome of this election and now the Conservatives have a job on their hands convincing the UK we are “all in this together” (an awful dictum by the way). Let’s see how political parties of all hues use social media during this parliament – hopefully there will be some innovation.

 

Google Analytics adds Cohort Analysis (Beta)

Google has released cohort analysis as an option on the Google Analytics dashboard. It allows you to breakdown an overall visitor number into different groups (known as cohorts), and then analyse visitor behaviour based upon common experiences visitors may have had. For example, you may want to compare how users who visited your website from an email campaign compared with those who had visited from Twitter Ads.

It’s a form of analysis I first came across in my past role as a Multinational Account Manager at Microsoft – online advertising analysis is generally way ahead of digital PR measurement.

Google Analytics’ cohort analysis is still in beta version and therefore it is extremely basic. As of writing this post you are able to select from a number of segments (existing metrics on Google Analytics such as device or traffic type), but the rest of the options are a little bit… simple.

  • Cohort type: Can only view how visitors to a website behaved after a certain date
  • Cohort size: Can only be by day, week or month (so a general overview)
  • Metric: Choose a Google Analytics metric that you want to measure
  • Date: Choose the date range

Despite some limitations, cohort analysis can still provide some interesting results. For example, the below screenshots show how the duration times vary between mobile users and desktop and tablet users.

Cohort Analysis, Google Analytics, visit duration

 

I’m sure this new feature, whilst only basic at the moment, will provide valuable feedback about client campaigns.

Please stop talking about Big Data… sheesh!

‘Big data’ is becoming a phrase synonymous with the public relations (PR) industry. Just do a Google Search for “big data public relations” and 105,000,000 results are delivered. Ironically none of these articles are really explaining big data, but instead the service used to deliver those results is making use of big data.

As defined by Wikipedia (3rd August 2014),

“Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are a constantly moving target, as of 2012 ranging from a few dozen terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single data set.”

The fact is most PR agencies struggle to keep their media lists up-to-date, so industry discussions concerning big data seem rather farcical. Big data should only be used to reference certain situations, such as describing the total computational capacity of Google which apparently equates to 40 petaflops, which means 40 quadrillion operations per second. Such power doesn’t rely on ‘commonly used software’, whereas the service of PR typically does.

Unsurprisingly there are not reports on the actual amounts of data that PR agencies operate, but in my experience online programmes can range between 10 kilobytes – 50 gigabytes. Inevitably these numbers will increase as tools progress, the data we can collect advances and visualisations improve.

In my view PR operates in the arena of Small Data; defined by Wikipedia (3rd August 2014),

“Small data is data that is small enough size for human comprehension. About one quarter of the human brain is involved in visual processing, and the only way to comprehend Big data is to reduce the data into small, visually-appealing objects representing various aspects of large data sets or data “features” (such as histogram describing data projections and relationships, charts, scatter plots) that can be understood by humans. The term “big data” is about machines and “small data” is about people.”

The aim for PR agencies should be to develop solutions delivering humanly comprehensible information, by using commonly used tools (understandable for manual human interaction); computer scientists are not necessary.

Strikes me that the majority of those Google search results about big data were primarily placed to scare fees out of susceptible new business, rather than provide any real insight or analysis. Small data is beautiful, formidable, and offers outstanding value to PR. Don’t underestimate the value of these micro insights.