Data-Driven Storytelling (and what to do with all those numbers)

July 17, 2019 Chris Huppertz
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By Chris Huppertz, Vice President, Communications


Data. It’s everywhere. It’s around us, between us, connecting us. And with each passing day, the amount of data generated increases exponentially. IBM, for example, says that 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years – that’s 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day!

But until recently we haven’t done a great job of monitoring it, let alone knowing what to do once we have. That’s especially true in PR, where many will call it quits once they’ve gathered a few basic stats like story counts and potential impressions.

Be warned: change is coming. In fact, it’s already here. The lines between PR, Marketing, and data-scientist are quickly blurring. And whether you’re a seasoned PR pro or a budding star, just understanding data will no longer cut it. To be a compelling storyteller, you need to know how to use data. How to create data. And how to make data talk. In fact, I would say that data should be the golden arrow in every PR pro’s quiver.

So what do I do with data, you ask? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for what data can do for you. But there are a few places every communications professional should look before kicking off their next campaign:

  1. Reporting (more than just coverage)

One of the easiest – but often overlooked – ways to show off your fancy data skills is in your reporting. Here, the data you gather is just as important as the story you tell with it. I think everyone reports on the number of story placements they’ve secured – but what does this really mean for your client’s bottom line? If coverage volume is only concern, then simply counting stories might be adequate. But looking deeper, you’ll likely uncover trends in what stories and pitches working best, which outlets cover you’re the most, if your message is sticking and what needs improvement.

  1. Tell your story with #s

Anyone can say they’re the “leader in ________”… but how do they back it up? Data is the key to substantiating a claim – but it also helps paint a bigger, more meaningful picture. Or it can paint different picture altogether. The important thing is that your data (and claims) have been properly researched and are intellectually defensible. The last thing you want is to lose credibility or be perceived as disingenuous.

  1. Create your own news

In today’s internet-connected, tech-driven world, almost every company is sitting on a goldmine of proprietary data. And it’s just waiting for a PR savant to tap into it. When facing a lull in hard news, consider exploring your data for new trends or insights to pitch media. For example, maybe you have a trove of info on purchasing behavior, device usage or consumer frustrations. A quarterly data dump can position your executives as true experts and thought leaders in their field. And if you don’t have data already, you can always generate some at a nominal cost by creating your own consumer survey.

  1. Comment on others’ news

Rather than creating a news story of your own, consider using your data – and expert opinion – to weigh in on others’. We’ve had tremendous success positioning our clients as authorities in their fields – it just requires a unique and relevant data point, and a compelling point of view to explain what it means. Have some thoughts on Facebook’s new feature? Have some data that relates? Pitch it to the folks who cover Facebook most, and soon you’ll become the go-to source for any Facebook related commentary.

PR is changing… and that’s a good thing. But don’t get left behind in the days when press releases were physically mailed, or when social media was “just for kids.” Let data be your secret weapon to a winning strategy and you’ll soon become a more compelling storyteller.

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