‘Cuse Chronicles by a CEO – PR Gets a Dose of Big Data

Phil Nardone

Throughout the semester, in addition to lecturing, I invite guest speakers into my class. This provides my students with the opportunity to learn about PR from notable industry veterans and influencers with varying backgrounds and experiences. Each year, I work closely with the Newhouse School and my TA to identify a group of speakers that will provide a holistic view of the industry. This week, the students had the pleasure of hearing from two PR professionals—one a veteran and one who is still in the early years of a promising career.Ways and Means Book Cover

My first section of students heard from Bill Smullen, a Syracuse University graduate, who now serves as the director of the National Security Studies program at the Maxwell School (at S.U.). After graduating from S.U., Bill enlisted in the Army, where he spent 30 years serving in countries like Panama, Korea and Vietnam. During this period of time, Bill served as the communications director for the U.S. Army, helping lay the communications plan that would help usher in the first era of female soldiers. After retiring from the Army in 1993, Bill served as the Chief of Staff to Colin L. Powell, both before and during the General’s term as Secretary of State.

My later class heard from a bright, new starlet to the public relations industry, Sara Wallace, the director of marketing for Destiny USA, one of the nation’s largest shopping and lifestyle centers. Sara did not have a formal PR education, but found her way into the position after graduating with her Master’s Degree from SUNY Oswego. She now heads up the marketing and communications efforts for Destiny USA, which serves Upstate New York, Canada and many of the Northeast states. As you may guess, this is a diverse demographic—made up of a large community of college students, families and tourists. As such, Sara relies heavily on data and market research to determine how she and her team will communicate with these diverse audiences.DUSA new logo

I touched upon this briefly in my first post for this series, but after hearing both Sara and Bill speak, it really got me thinking about how much the industry has changed over the past few years and how Big Data is driving PR.

Nowadays, everyone is more informed; more prepared and more connected than ever before. For many of our clients, this means that in order to be successful, they have to understand their audience. As PR professionals, we need to start harnessing the information generated from Googling and Tweeting to create targeted, compelling campaigns that speak to our clients’ diverse audiences. Given how digital today’s world is, there is an endless amount of data that can be leveraged to create actionable insights.

Later in the semester, I’ll talk with my students in more detail about the recent rise of integrated communications and without a doubt we’ll touch upon the role Big Data and analytics is playing. Being that my students are part of the millennial generation, who are famously characterized as being the tech-savvy generation, I’ll be curious to hear their thoughts about Big Data and how they anticipate it will shape the future of our industry.

For the moment, I am proud that I was able to harness two speakers for week #2 that lend such different backgrounds and approaches to PR. Score one for the professor!!!

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