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We’re into a new year, but that doesn’t mean we’re done dissecting the remains 2012 election, it’s pretty clear that there was one big winner of the long, winding campaign season.


We’ll steer clear of the politics, but one awesome thing that came out of the campaigns was how one man and his spreadsheets turned the democratic world on its head by relentless, meticulous tracking of polls and absurdly accurate predictions. Nate Silver was both a punching bag and a champion for people on both sides of the aisle, but in correctly predicting President Obama’s re-election, apologies and accolades for his arithmetic came flying in.

He made it all the way through the hero worship cycle in the form of many, many Twitter memes and across important corners of the Internet like a Reddit AMA. Even months later, I haven’t had my fill:


All the jokes aside, Silver took something that many looked at as part art – punditry and election prediction – and made it a killer science of research, math, polling and trending. So much so that Silver’s blog, FiveThirtyEight, became a destination on the New York Times website. It was deliciously nerdy, and a much needed bias-free land during the wall-to-wall coverage of the campaigns.

All of this got me thinking, of course. Math was able to break down the wall of how we look at polls and make assertions about campaigns, politics and news. It shouldn’t be a shock in coming years when, in recognition of Silver’s work, campaigns scoop up data analysts wherever they can to ensure they are spending their funds in areas where they can actually make a difference.

If only there was another industry that often gets labeled as too much art, not enough proof, and that really needs to show the math behind its madness.

What I’m trying to say is that public relations needs its Nate Silver. Badly. Here’s where we need to go:

1. We need to quantify things that make sense. Silver won the polling analysis war because he wasn’t just removing known biases, but because he was watching the trends. PR needs to look at the numbers it has to find that formula. It won’t be just counting numbers, but quantification of the depth, engagement and awareness among audiences that sit at a company’s bottom line. Until we have a valid, agreed and true way to count those things, we won’t have a benchmark.
2. We need to position PR’s impact in affecting those numbers. Silver could make a ton of money right now as a political consultant, because by understanding how the numbers were moving, he was highlighting the trends and activities that did and didn’t make them move. If we are able to figure out the math that we need and connect it to our campaigns, we can demonstrate how what we do every day makes a difference.

So, no pressure PR industry. We’re next for the radical revolution of numbers. I feel it.

David Levy
Senior Account Manager


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