Collect all the data! Run all the numbers! Metrics!Ok, now what?
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, communications professionals love data. When we’re pitching stories, data adds relevancy and credibility. When we’re measuring efforts, data provides clarity on what’s working and what’s not. Data is everywhere in our work and now - particularly in the current media landscape - being able to look at data and pull out useful insights and stories is an essential PR skill. More than just spitting out how many clips were secured or how many people liked a tweet, our focus must turn to what all that data means as a way to build a better strategy to support business goals. That may sound like a monumental task, but here are a couple ways to look at data that will get you well on your way.
Stories over time
One of the more efficient ways to pull valuable insights is by looking at a given industry and tracking which story topics have received traction over a period of time. This data can help determine a trend line and predict if a topic still has opportunity or space in the market - or is old news. For example, say you’re a manufacturer and you want to secure some thought leadership exposure about building IoT devices. Start by looking at manufacturing publications and determining how often articles about IoT topics appear. Find out if the number of stories about this topic have increased, decreased or remained constant over the course of the past year. This type of analysis can also unearth new media targets interested in your topic area - so it’s a good ‘kill two birds with one stone’ scenario.
At InkHouse, we use a system called TrendKite to pull together all this media coverage data and run analysis on topics over time, but there are several other PR monitoring and analytics tools that can also help pull this raw information. Some smart work with Google and excel docs can also do the trick.
Channels and impact
Choosing the right mix of channels for a given story or message is probably the most important part of communications. You could have the greatest message in the world, but if it’s not reaching the right people, then you’re screwed. When it comes to taking a data approach to choosing channels, you need to analyze which channel will have the best impact on your goals. This means understanding which channels are available (for example, news publications, email newsletters, social platforms, blogs, etc.), matching them to both your story and target audiences, and prioritizing channels by the potential positive impact.
Identifying target channels in advance and measuring success against that list is obviously the easiest route, but you can also use data to inform channels, such as audience size (think unique visitors per month, followers, subscribers), audience make up (demographics, psychographics) and engagement (syndication, shares, likes/retweets). When you think about ‘impact’ consider what kind of lifespan a channel offers your content, if will it expand your reach of a target audience and how similar content has performed on that channel in the past. I’ve found it useful to ‘score’ or ‘grade’ certain channels and prioritize outreach/content creation accordingly.
Getting at insights absolutely means looking at metrics holistically and finding the stories within the data but, more importantly, you need to just be more curious. Seriously. The more you ask why something happened the way it did, and the more you try to understand it, the more capable you’ll be at identifying patterns and finding valuable information. Curiosity forms the foundation of useful insights so, really, it’s just about shifting your perspective.