The internet has produced extreme information overload. Brands find it more and more difficult to break through excessive online noise to reach potential customers. To overcome the information overload, public relations and content marketing strategies must become more personalized, strategic and creative.
Enter: Data-driven Public Relations.
What is Data-Driven Public Relations?
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, data-driven public relations relies on facts and figures to generate awareness of and insights about a business and its brands. Although data-driven PR seems simple in theory, it can be quite challenging to execute well.
For large companies with access to ample resources, gathering data is relatively straightforward. But for smaller companies, data-driven PR requires some creativity.
Let’s break down the steps needed to implement a data-driven PR strategy — no matter what the size of your company.
How to Implement a Data-Driven PR Strategy
Companies that have embraced a data-driven mindset are three times as likely to be financially ahead of their competitors, according to the Economist Intelligence unit. But becoming a data-driven organization isn’t just a switch you can flip. That leads us to our first point:
1. Determine your goals.
As with any business strategy, you must first determine your goals before laying out a plan. Ask yourself: What are my primary business goals? Is it revenue, brand awareness, product expansion? Your public relations goals will depend on how you answer this question.
Here’s an example: A small company selling healthcare software has a high-quality product but is relatively unknown in the industry. Therefore, its overall business goal is to generate more awareness about the brand. The public relations team must align its goals and strategies accordingly.
2. Develop data-driven strategies to reach the goal.
What type of data will differentiate the product or service – and drive home the message about its value? How can you access or develop that data affordably? What format will you use to communicate the data and product messages? How will you distribute the communications materials?
3. Get key stakeholders on board.
This type of business initiative starts from the top and requires close alignment between many teams and departments. Before attempting to gather and analyze data, first meet with key stakeholders and data keepers to discuss your goals and anticipated processes.
Depending on what data you need and what you’re trying to achieve, initial conversations may include C-level executives, marketing personnel, sales leadership, product management, researchers, and others. We recommend starting small at the lower levels, and expanding conversations as necessary.
4. Gather data and uncover insights.
Gathering convincing and newsworthy data can be tricky — especially if you don’t have resources to conduct large-scale research. These are some fairly easy ways to collect data-driven insights:
CRM data analysis.
The company’s relationship management (CRM) platform or database contains extraordinary amounts of customer information and can yield real insights into market attitudes. The contact database also contains valuable customer data.
Here’s an example: A company selling customer service chatbot software requires the following data points in exchange for a free trial of their product: first name, last name, company, job title, phone number, and email address. Because the company receives thousands of leads a week, it has access to important industry insights.
After careful analysis, PR team members realize they’ve been receiving fewer form submissions with the job title “Customer Service Manager” than previously. Instead, they’ve seen a trend toward titles containing customer experience. Using this insight, they develop a press initiative that sheds light on the industry’s shift toward a more customer-oriented business model.
Purchase data analysis.
Purchase records regarding the types of products, purchase frequency, and seasonality of purchases, can contain compelling and newsworthy insights.
Here’s another example: A major clothing retailer analyzes purchase history based on geographic location to determine its most popular item by US state. Then their team designs an interactive map to display the information.
Major teen magazines and websites point to the map as a reference for hot fashion trends in the US. As a result, brand recognition skyrockets and sales for popular items increase.
Website data analysis.
Website behavior data provides digital marketing professionals valuable information, but it can also help PR professionals uncover important trends and insights.
To begin your analysis of website data, look at individual pages that receive a significant amount of traffic. Pay close attention to information like traffic source, geographic location, technology usage, and keyword searches.
Here’s an example: A compliance training vendor noticed a large amount of organic traffic from the following keywords: GDPR, data compliance, and how to be GDPR compliant. Although team members understand that new regulations led to the increase in searches, they were able to use the data to quantify this change.
The search data reveals that searches for GDPR keywords tripled in just one month. Based on the particular keywords, the company formulated their own opinions about industry concerns. Data analysis was then pitched to and picked up by publications reporting on the upcoming policy changes.
Survey data analysis.
Whether you work at a large enterprise organization or a small startup, surveys can be a cost-effective way to create interesting and newsworthy data. Surveys are particularly helpful when you have an initiative you feel strongly about but don’t have the statistics to support your theories or conclusions.
The survey starts with an idea or concept and a supporting hypothesis. Then the survey questionnaire collects the specific data points you seek. Of course, you never know how results will turn out. But even if your hypothesis is wrong, you’ll still obtain important data and insights.
Take this example: A company that operates a dating website believes having shared dislikes builds strong relationships. Company employees design a survey and distribute it to the company’s user-base, their personal networks, and their extensive email network. When they compile results, they’re surprised to find couples are happier when they have more “likes” than “dislikes” in common.
Even though their original hypothesis was wrong, they were able to pitch the following premise: Although millennials have a pessimistic view on dating, relationships last longer when couples share more “likes” and break up sooner when they have common “dislikes.”
Borrowed data analysis.
Another company’s data can inform your public relations insights. Although this strategy may not be as effective as others, it’s often the only option for companies who have very little time and resources.
If you have a story or campaign that would be more effective if supported by data, use insights gathered by another company. As long as the information you use comes from a reputable brand and is cited correctly, it will still validate your initiative.
Example: A small mom and pop grocery store specializes in organically grown produce. They want to illustrate the health benefits of organic foods but don’t have the money to sponsor an official study. Instead they use information gathered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to support their claims.
Social media monitoring and measurement.
Media monitoring can identify favorable media mentions that your PR team can amplify as well as trending news in your industry that is ripe for news jacking. Social media monitoring and measurement can produce market research, often more quickly and more affordably than traditional research methods. Media monitoring can provide a treasure trove of market intelligence that is newsworthy and reveal competitors’ most effective data-driven PR strategies your company can emulate.
Use data analysis professionals to interpret results.
PR professionals often lack the statistical skills to interpret data correctly. A data analysis professional is essential to assure that data interpretation and statistical analysis is correct. Using skilled statisticians will avoid the embarrassment of, for example, confusing correlation with causality or of misinterpreting average and median. A skilled statistician can also tease out data insights that PR professionals might miss.
In the ever-changing and competitive business landscape, companies that leverage a data-driven PR strategy gain the upper hand. It’s no longer enough to rely on newsworthy events or brand credibility. You must use data to create your own news.
Have you ever implemented a data-driven PR campaign? What was your goal and how did your results pan out? Let us know in the comment section below.