Data in Public Relations: Unleash Your Inner Nerd

Access to marketing data has changed the way we write content, how we conduct PR outreach, and the metrics we set. Yet data without insights is nothing. So access to this great information presents a challenge to communications on how to interpret and act.

Understand Data and its Importance

We’re always hearing about “data-driven” companies, but what exactly does that mean?

I have delivered a lot of business speeches in recent years all over the world about many areas of digital marketing. Each time I’ve asked delegates to take away three things:

  • Be guided by data. From planning right through to content creation and reporting. Know what you can about your audience and your market.
  • Set KPIs according to business objectives. Avoid “vanity metrics” (number of followers, etc.). Knowing how many followers you have is meaningless without defining whom you want to target and how.
  • Data without insights is nothing. For example, you need to define your audience, and interpret their needs and behavior before you can make strong recommendations on how to influence them.

The shift in the last 15-20 years from print coverage to online influence means communications professionals have to become more rounded and metrics-driven.

Accepted measurements such as Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) – panned in Europe but still used in some places – sought to put a cash value on print coverage and reach, but PR has always struggled to prove return on investment (ROI).

Until now.

Communications professionals now have a wealth of tools, both to measure results and gauge effectiveness. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Trends and social media monitoring can prove a correlation between a company’s PR activities and public action based on them.

For example, let’s take a quick look at the use of keywords. We know how much Google charges for clicks on keywords, so if we help a client rank better for them and prove a rise in traffic as a result, is that not a quantifiable return on investment?

Access to data is changing metrics, from outputs to business outcomes. It’s also changing research and creativity.

Matching data with creativity

Skills from advertising and wider marketing have become invaluable to PR. This includes accruing data, interpreting it, and acting on it in a creative way. As I once heard at a PR summit from a UK agency founder, “Data’s great, but it never had an idea.”

In addition, to paraphrase from New York-based Will McInnes, CMO of social media monitoring and analytics tool, Brandwatch, data can provide the context in which great ideas can exist. As an industry, we need to get better at assessing quantitative and qualitative data so we can understand:

  • the changing influencer landscape
  • the lexicon of the audience
  • the true reach and impact of our work
  • the cross-channel consumption of our content
  • the impact on search results
  • brand sentiment (although I recommend human supervision here, as machines struggle with sentiment accuracy)

Recommended tools include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Website performance and user experience: Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  • Influencer mapping and online conversation analysis: Sysomos, Brandwatch, Crimson Hexagon
  • Keyword research: Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, SpyFu
  • Social network analysis: Facebook Insights, YouTube Analytics, Twitter Analytics, Iconosquare (for Instagram)
  • Influencer identification: Various, including Alexa, Buzzsumo and Teads Labs
  • Media tracking: Netvibes, Google Alerts

It’s time to unleash your inner nerd to make the most of data.

If you would like to discuss how Paragon could help you use data to improve your PR and marketing programs, please contact us.

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