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It's the 21st century paradox for communicators: data is prevalent, but much of it fails to fuel relevant insights for action. Why? Because even as information is being collected and stored as big data, it's not often being accessed and interpreted in meaningful ways.

Big data and IoT

The concept of the internet of things (IoT) has emerged to describe how everyday objects and devices can connect with data to prompt action. Whether you realize it or not, chances are that you've already encountered and even engaged with the IoT. Have you ever worn a Fitbit? Interacted with a smart home device like Google Home or the Amazon Echo? Then you have a sense of the power of the IoT.

 

Today's communicators have access to enormous amounts of data from internal and external sources. The challenge, of course, is to harness that data so that it can drive insight, decisions and action. Together, big data and IoT can be used to do just that.

Opportunities in harnessing big data

While big data and IoT are still in the early stages of adoption by corporate communicators, the potential is certainly there. Consider the communication-related data that your organization likely has readily available from both internal and external audiences that have interacted through various touch points. You may have databases that log requests or actions that employees have made online, perhaps through an HRIS or intranet. Leveraging that data can help you identify employees' top concerns and interests, and even help make predictions about future actions and behaviors.

 

All of this, and more, is possible by harnessing big data and thinking about what types of communication decisions that data might drive.

If this, then that

How might the IoT come into play for your organization? Any variety of communication actions might be triggered by various types of data available both internally and externally. For instance, when the weather service issues a warning, you could automatically generate an email or text message to employees. Or, you might generate a Facebook post when your organization is mentioned in the news, or send an email to employees when your company's stock price hits a new high. It's an "if this, then that" type of functionality that ties data to action. The "bigger" the data, the greater the potential.

 

The data becomes even more powerful when combined in various ways to automatically trigger activities or connections with various audiences. For instance:

  • If you know that certain employees have requested information through the HRIS on retirement planning and your benefit plan administrator is scheduled to come to your facility at a certain date and time, the data in your calendar application and the data in your HRIS can be combined to alert employees about the meeting.
  • If you have a list of people who have inquired about a new product release, send automatic updates using combined data from your CRM and project management system.

These same types of actions could also be triggered by using external sources of data, like social media. Imagine someone mentions your company in a post, along with certain other specific words you've identified, this could be automatically sent as a message or mentioned in your social channels. Monitoring trending topics can help to identify potential areas of opportunity or the need to address an emerging issue.

 

The life of the corporate communicator is likely to change significantly over the next few years. More information and more automation mean that corporate communicators will have more time to focus on applying their talent and energy to strategic issues — while letting the IoT take care of the details.

 

Download our .futurology report to find out more on how Big Data offers a unique opportunity to radically change the way we do things.

Lin Grensing-Pophal, MA, SHRM-SCP is owner/CEO of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in strategic planning, PR/media relations, social media and SEO and corporate communications. Linda is the author of several books on marketing and business practices. Pophal is an accredited member of SHRM, IABC and the American Marketing Association.

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