Lessons from the Panama Papers on managing big data.

By Amber Hudson 

We’ve all read the headlines behind the Panama Papers with a heavy dose of schadenfreude.  But to us there’s a fascinating data story in all this.

An anonymous source handed over the biggest, and potentially juiciest, file to a national German newspaper, Sudeutsche Zeitung.  The document contained over 2.6 terabytes of data (that’s about 11.5 million documents) uncovering offshore havens for super rich tax evaders.

So Sudeutsche Zeitung came up with a plan. They brought in the ICIJ and 400 journalists from 80 countries and attacked the data. They did it because it was the right thing to do, not for fame and money.

This story is proof that in spite of the basement bloggers we still need great journalism.  And that more smart people thrown at a problem produces better results.

So marketers, what will be your plan in this world of too much data? Clarify the problem you are solving, bring together the right team, outline the hypotheses, and share the heavy lifting. An algorithm didn’t crack the Panama Papers, it was great journalism and hard work.

And yes, there is another lesson. There are no secrets.  Your dirty laundry will eventually be aired as there is always someone willing to dig deep enough.  So if you’ve got skeletons in your brand closet find a way to tell your story, otherwise someone will do it for you.