Journalists have embraced data journalism. That fondness for data-driven stories offers public relations teams a sizable opportunity. PR pros can gain media placements by immersing themselves in data public relations – telling stories based on data. With public trust in corporations and the media at record-low levels, data PR is the most effective strategy for gaining media mentions and promoting a company’s message.
New research by Google supports anecdotal reports of journalists’ greater preference for data journalism.
Google News Lab worked with PolicyViz to survey more than 900 journalists in the U.S. and Europe and conduct 56 in-person interviews of journalists. The research reveals that:
- 42% of reporters use data to tell stories regularly (twice or more per week).
- 51% of all news organizations in the U.S. and Europe now have a dedicated data journalist — and this rises to 60% for digital-only platforms.
- 33% of journalists use data for political stories, followed by 28% for finance and 25% for investigative stories.
- 49% of data stories are created in a day or less, highlighting the time pressures that journalists now face.
Data for the Post-Truth Era
One journalist summarized the importance of data, saying: “Data is a good way of getting to the truth of things … in this post-truth era, this work is increasingly important. We are all desperately searching for facts.”
Data journalism involves collecting and analyzing data, sometimes huge amounts of data with the help of computer programs, and then transforming that information into easily digestible stories, often with data visualizations. Despite the substantial benefits of data journalism, few PR teams try to take advantage of it, and those who do, often do it poorly, experts say.
“As public relations professionals, it is imperative that we understand data from clients or that we provide to our clients will not simply be taken at face value every time,” asserts PR expert Ashley Durkin-Rixey, writing for Stanton Communications.
How to Succeed in Data PR
These tips can help PR use data effectively.
Read the AP Stylebook. The 2017 Stylebook includes a chapter on data journalism in its 2017 edition. It’s intended for journalists, but highly beneficial for PR pros.
Select three of the strongest data points to highlight in a news release. Let the numbers do the talking and allow researchers or company spokespeople interpret the data.
Avoid perceptions of bias. Include a transparent methodology that reveals how research was conducted, discloses any financial relationships upfront, and collects information from reputable sources such as government databases.
Take advantage of your internal data. Corporate PR is not limited to public databases like journalists. “Almost every enterprise has unique data flows that can be harnessed for data PR (even after allowing for confidentiality and competitive considerations),” writes Andy Gray, an analytics executive with Deloitte Australia.
Analyze social media. Social media analytics can provide a wealth of data and insights on almost any industry.
Make data appealing and interactive. “Sometimes people need more than simple pie charts and graphs to understand data. Data journalists get that,” says Pratik Dholakiya, co-founder of E2M, a content marketing agency. “And as a result, they must continuously hone their design and development skills.”
Brush up on your critical thinking and analytical skills with courses in statistics and data analytics.
Consult with a data expert to assure that your data are accurate and you have interpreted the data correctly. Use the data expert as your instructor, data verifier and proofreader.
Bottom Line: Data PR is a potent strategy for gaining publicity. PR teams can analyze public databases, their company’s internal data, and social media to uncover insights that will gain the attention of journalists.