Public Relations

Using Data to Drive Media Relations: 7 Tips for Success

By Steve Pludwin | On June 4, 2014

In a culture where data is pervasive, numbers and statistics can be an especially compelling way to tell a story. Though it should be no surprise that communications professionals are more at home working with language than deciphering algorithms, when it comes to using data to build a successful media relations campaign, you don’t need an army of data scientists, statisticians and analysts to get the job done. In this post, we focus on seven tips that will help you put different types of data to work in order to drive media coverage and increase your organization’s share of voice.


1.     Use a Single Data Point to Make Headlines


Working with data can be daunting, especially for the uninitiated. However, when it comes to media relations, even small data can produce big results. Truth is, you don’t need a large and complex survey with thousands of participants to make an impact. Small data sets, while not statistically significant, still have value from a media standpoint. Even a snapshot of just five CEOs or a sample of 100 customers nationwide can provide a powerful news hook. To be sure, every media outlet has its own criteria for accepting studies and survey results. Taking the time to become familiar with the standards of your target publications is essential to securing coverage.


2.     Aggregate Data to Create New Data


Finding unique data doesn’t always require initiating a new study or commissioning an original report. With the plethora of information readily available via the web, the information your organization needs is probably already out there; it may just require a little digging. By synthesizing the data available in multiple industry reports your organization can lend greater credibility to an issue and offer audiences a more comprehensive understanding of the data than each individual report can accomplish on its own.


3.     Examine Data Over Time to Identify Industry and Market Trends


When it comes to finding relevant data points for a media relations campaign, a little bit of good research can go a long way. Using a creative eye to examine reports and studies that are released annually can reveal information about significant industry trends. Want to know how certain issues have changed over the course of a number of years? The answers lie in looking at data over time. While these reports may already be well-trodden ground, looking at these studies year over year might provide insights regarding industry trends that have gone unnoticed.


4.     Know What Questions to Ask (and what not to ask)


While objectivity remains the standard for producing scientific studies, in PR our responsibility is to our clients and their business objectives. When designing surveys and opinion polls, carefully constructed questions can help provide the support you need to buttress your organization’s agenda while still adhering to ethical standards. Remaining attentive to the wording and placement of questions, as well as answer choices, is crucial for producing valuable results. Similarly, research design is as much about knowing what to omit as it is about knowing what to include. Simply put, if there’s a question you don’t want the answer to, don’t ask it.


5.     Remember that Data Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive


Though commissioned data might come with a hefty price tag, access to data does not have to drain your organization’s budget. In addition to curating third-party data, become savvy about using the focus group that’s already around you. For example, if your organization has a strong social media following, a single, well-crafted question might net a substantial number of responses. Similarly, placing a survey on your website provides a low cost option for collecting data that, while not scientifically sound, still has major PR value.


6.     Tap Your Organizational Resources


It’s quite possible you’re already sitting on a treasure trove of data and just don’t know it. In fact, a host of untapped data may lie in your company’s infrastructure. Look at your web patterns, what do they tell you? What can you learn from examining your customer service calls, email responses and social media traffic? Tapping your organization’s resources with an eye towards extracting relevant data will unearth significant information that speaks not only to your key audiences and customer base but also to your industry as a whole.


7.     Visualize the Headline


In the digital age, audiences no longer restrict their content consumption to the written word alone. Determining the best way to tell the “data story” is essential to producing results and ensuring that your core audiences remain engaged with the content you produce. With traditional news outlets embracing new media platforms, one of the most effective ways to leverage your data is through the use of images and other visual assets. While whitepapers, executive summaries and press releases are certainly still powerful media relations’ tools, infographics, webinars and slideshows provide even more compelling formats for data consumption.


As communications experts we already know how to tell a great story. Incorporating data into our narratives, or letting the data dictate the story, can yield significant results. From big data to small data, facts and figures can be news in their own right, and by following these seven tips, your organization will be well positioned for success.


For more tips on how to use data in your next media relations campaign, download our whitepaper on Data-Driven Headlines.


Steve Pludwin

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