From the point of view of corporate communication, the emergence of big data should not be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity to overcome traditional communication approaches (Pereira Villazón, Portilla Manjón y Rodríguez Salcedo, 2019). Big data can contribute to improving communication strategies, setting specific objectives, and allowing microsegmentation of audiences. In addition, it can help discovering new ways to quantify and improve the contribution of corporate communication and PR in business success and its influence on the organization (Weiner y Kochhar, 2016). Recent research confirms that more and more companies are integrating big data into their global and corporate strategy. However, although communication practitioners in Europe believe that big data will change their work in the near future (Zerfass, Tench, Verhoeven, Vercic y Moreno, 2018), its implementation today is still scarce. Therefore, this research aims to discover what are the expectations, challenges, opportunities and fears perceived by professionals facing the imminent emergence of the big data. A qualitative method, based on conducting interviews with communication managers of national and international companies established in Spain, is applied. The main results show that professionals must be committed, involved and trained as well as develop a special sensitivity to the use of data.
Immersed in the midst of the digital revolution, today’s society constantly generates a huge volume of data. People, through their phones and social networks, promote the exponential growth of information. Companies store data about their employees, customers, suppliers and their operations. All this makes organizations have an unprecedented amount of data. In this context, and given the massive existence of data, big data emerges as a process of collecting, storing, processing and analyzing large amounts of data (Revuelta Bayod, 2018).
Big data is transforming the business world and also that of corporate communication. Recent studies confirm that more and more companies are incorporating it into their global and corporate strategy. According to the European Communication Monitor (Zerfass, Tench, Verhoeven, Vercic and Moreno, 2018), communication professionals in Europe believe that big data will change their work in the near future, however, its implementation at present is still scarce. .
Scientific research also coincides in affirming that big data has great potential for communication science (Chen, Chiang and Storey, 2012; Parks, 2014). However, they mostly focus on the field of marketing (Wiencierz and Röttger, 2017; Wiesenberg, Zerfass and Moreno, 2017; Pereira Villazón, Portilla Manjón and Rodríguez Salcedo, 2018). In this area, big data is mainly used to obtain relevant information that supports decision-making (Chi, Ravichandran and Andrevski, 2010; Esper, Ellinger, Stank, Flint and Moon, 2010; Hu, DU and Damangir, 2014; Sahoo , Singh and Mukhopakhyay, 2012), and most of them focus on the potential to evaluate and improve campaigns (Wiencierz and Röttger, 2017). We also found research in the advertising field, where big data is used to maintain or create brand value (Fulgoni, 2013; Rappaport, 2014; Seddon, 2015), launch products effectively (Hariharan, Talukdar and Kwon, 2015) and expand customers through better targeting of advertising (Liu, Pancras and Houtz, 2015) or by selecting the most appropriate channels (Martens and Provost, 2014). Likewise, it is evident that big data contributes to creating deeper relationships with customers (Wiencierz and Röttger, 2017), since it helps to improve communication and even allows us to personalize and improve the service.
Despite its importance and the opportunities that big data offers for corporate communication and public relations (Weiner and Kochhar, 2016; Holtzhausen and Zerfass, 2015; Wiencierz and Röttger, 2017), the discussion on the use of big data has been Recently incorporated into the field of communication and research, it is still limited in this field (Weiner and Kochhar, 2016; Wiesenberg, Zerfass and Moreno, 2017; Wiencierz and Röttger, 2017; 2019). Studies show that big data can help public relations in managing problems (Kent and Saffer, 2014; Chen, Chiang and Storey, 2012), as well as improving corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities (Uldam, 2016) or the investigation of the target audiences (Kent and Saffer, 2014).
In a general way and mainly at the international level, there is a special interest in “the topics related to the challenges and opportunities that big data offers to public relations professionals” (Pereira Villazón, Portilla Manjón and Rodríguez Salcedo, 2019, p. 161). Based on the European Communication Monitor (Zerfass et al., 2016), with 2,710 respondents from more than 40 countries, the study prepared by Wiesenberg, Zerfass and Moreno (2017) analyzes the experience of communication professionals with big data and its applications in communication departments and agencies. Research reveals that 72% of communication-related professionals believe that big data will change their profession. However, only 21% of respondents know how to apply it to their daily work.
The present investigation tries to make a first approximation of the situation in Spain and to deepen on the expectations, challenges, opportunities and fears that the professionals of corporate communication and public relations perceive. With this purpose, it will try to contextualize the basic concepts and procedures of big data and their application to corporate communication, and then the opportunities and challenges that big data represents for communication professionals who carry out their work in Spain will be discussed.