At a recent IBM Watson Analytics event, I heard a term which has captivated me ever since: the rise of the citizen analyst. The citizen analyst is the individual who has access to powerful, modern tools of analysis. These tools were previously the domain of only the wealthiest mega-corporations, but are now broadly available to anyone with Internet access and a reasonably modern computer.
What does a citizen analyst do? In the same vein as the citizen journalist democratized media, the citizen analyst is empowered to do independent analysis of publicly available data. Hear something a politician says that doesn’t make sense? Instead of relying on third party analysis in the news, a citizen analyst can pick up the source data and find an answer for themselves, then work with a citizen journalist to shed light on the truth.
What tools does a citizen analyst use? Tools, of course, like IBM Watson Analytics, but also other statistical tools like SOFA Stats, The R Project, SQL and Hadoop databases, Google BigQuery, and so much more.
Why does the Citizen Analyst matter to marketers and communicators? As you’ve read over the past months, we are at a critical time in marketing and public relations. Our profession is becoming more data-driven by the day; our world is becoming more data-driven. Publishers, writers, journalists, influencers, and creators all expect data to be part of the work we do. Yet the talent pool of data-driven, technology-proficient public relations professionals isn’t growing in proportion to the challenge before us.
The Citizen Analyst presents an opportunity for us to remedy our talent shortage. If we can encourage our fellow citizens to take up analysis, to dig into data about causes that motivate them, then we may uncover hidden talent. Provide affordable analytics tools to high schools and colleges, and some students may find they have an aptitude and eagerness to analyze data. We need those people to join our profession, to advance our profession.
As Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker upon his transformation to Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Thus, to guide citizen analysts in understanding their responsibilities, we’ve created The Citizen Analyst Manifesto:
You must be curious of nature, and dedicated in heart;
Speak humbly, but with insight;
Seek truth in your data, yet not hold it too high;
Ask boldly. Be forthright, and unafraid. Disclose with honesty.
And to all this, you must bring persistence, for data whispers its secrets to few.
In this upcoming series, we’ll examine the different core values of the Citizen Analyst Manifesto and how citizen analysts can maximize their impact.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
Disclosure: IBM Watson Analytics and Watson are trademarks of IBM. Used with permission.
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