Data is a powerful PR tool. Whether you’re looking at the gender wage gap, workplace apps, or the costs of endpoint security, it can be the basis for not only top-tier press, but social content, blog posts, contributed articles, sales emails and more.
Why? Because for every wildly successful data report, there are five more that are complete garbage. Here’s how to make sure your next report doesn’t fall into that category.
Be Transparent About Methodology
Sample size, timeframe, and demographics aren’t just nice-to-haves. If you can’t articulately explain how your data was gathered, you lose all credibility. Create a dedicated methodology section in an easy-to-find location in the report to help you build trust with rightfully suspicious reporters.
Prioritize Proprietary Data
Thanks to the results of hundreds of painfully self-serving general population surveys, third-party survey data is starting to lose its luster. Instead, companies should look inward and see how they can use their own proprietary data to tell a compelling story. For example, if you’re a commerce company, what do your customers’ shopping decisions say about the hottest brands right now? If you are a loan refinancing company, what is the state of student debt in America and how has it changed over the past five years? Readers tend to prefer this type of data because it’s focused on action, not opinions.
If you only have a few pieces of shareable internal data, consider pairing it with third-party survey data to build out a complete storyline. This type of report can be really interesting, especially if it shows a contradiction between what people believe and what they actually do.
Give Your Visuals Purpose
Adding graphic elements to a data report is a great way to break up long chunks of text and add some visual interest, but the graphics in your report should make your data easier to understand, not more confusing. Often times, that means simplicity is key. Bar and pie charts aren’t cutting-edge, but everyone knows how to read them. Scatter plots, heat maps, bubble charts, etc. can be used effectively, but don’t complicate your graphic elements just for the sake of it.
Before you decide to add a visual element, ask yourself three questions: 1) Would a reporter use this image in an article? 2) Does this graphic make sense without reading the text around it? and 3) Will someone seeing this graphic for the first time understand what it means?
Tell a Bigger Story
While deciding what type of data to pull requires careful thought, the real work begins once you have an Excel sheet full of raw numbers on your screen. Too many PR people tend to bullet out a few interesting findings and call it a day, leaving it up to the reader to connect the dots. That’s a big mistake; reporters with endless deadlines and hundreds of pitches in their inboxes don’t have time to comb through the data themselves. That’s your job.
For example, if you have salary data, what happens when you factor in cost of living? If you have shopping trend data, what happens when you divide it up by metro area? Allowing time to explore these options will pay off in the long run.
Data-driven journalism is here to stay, and being thoughtful, transparent and creative will make your brand a part of it. You just can’t be afraid of your calculator.
Darah believes what you say to the world matters, so she’s spent her career helping companies craft the right narrative to reach the right people. Throughout her five years in the Inkhouse San Francisco office, she’s built and executed strategic communications programs for fast-moving companies spanning enterprise tech, venture capital, consumer products and marketplaces. Her focus on business-driven PR initiatives and creative storytelling has helped clients build positive brand reputations and become go-to authorities with press.