Introduction to Data-driven Public Relations

According to the results of the European Communication Monitor 2016 survey, more than 70 percent of European PR professionals believe that big data will have a great impact on their profession. Still, only 21 percent of comms departments and agencies have implemented big data activities. There is incredible room for improvement.

The reason for this is as follows: today, data is the key. Just think about it… Data reflects nearly everything people do—from their daily shopping to their travel habits. Modern agencies have access to tremendous knowledge, they just have to learn how to use it.

First of all, insight is everything. You can build the best creative strategy or tactic in the world, but if it doesn’t provide an answer to an existing need or desire, it will fall flat. Every strategy-building process should be preceded by an in-depth analysis of the situation. And this is exactly where data comes into play. Ask questions like “Who?”, “What?”, “When?” and “How?”. Run surveys, read industry reports, talk to your clients, stakeholders and other businesses. Be an observer. Once you’ve collected a significant amount of data, start analyzing it. Connect the dots between your observations. And here comes the hard part—don’t make any assumptions that could have a major impact on your strategy.

Imagine two managers of an e-commerce platform discussing one of their major issues.

Example one:

A: We have a massive gap in the 15-24 age group.

B: Well, I think it’s because people in this particular age group don’t seem to like our brand. We’re not as cool for them as used to be in the late 90s. Maybe we should run a rebranding campaign?

Example two:

A: We have a massive gap in the 15-24 age group.

B: Well, we’ve scrutinized various aspects of our website. Apparently, it’s non-responsive, which makes it really hard to navigate on mobile devices. I know for a fact that we get a lot of single visits via mobile devices, and a huge part of these visits comes from people in this age group. We should invest in a responsive website or perhaps a mobile app.

See? Even though the first example provides a solution to the presented problem, it is backed only by assumptions. In our second example, the managers gathered a lot of data, providing proper understanding of the nature of the problem. And this is crucial for answering the legendary “So what?” question and building a decent PR strategy. Our friends at H+K Strategies have based their processes on insights long before—it worked for them, and will work for you as well.

But data is more than that

You should include data in all your communication processes. The sooner you do it, the more knowledge you’ll get. Automation and personalization are among the hottest PR trends for 2017 as both can dramatically boost your effectiveness. There are plenty of online tools developed for both of these purposes.

Imagine having an online press center where reporters leave their email addresses using a simple lead generation/newsletter form, thus triggering an automated email campaign. If, for instance, they are covering tech industry news, the system will send them your latest tech announcement 1-2 days after they signed up. If they open this message more than three times—which would mean they may be interested in actually covering it—the system should assign a task to one of your team members to follow up with them immediately. Clicks, visits, preferences or even personal greetings—such data is solid gold for understanding your audience.

Once you understand it, the ultimate win is within arm’s reach. People love a personal touch, and this concerns journalists too. At the end, there’s “Relations” in PR for a reason!