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How Data is Changing the PR Game

Last week I attended the Grassroots Professionals Network Data and Advocacy Summit and got to hear from some of the best minds in Washington as they shared their insights on how PR practitioners can utilize data. The rise of data has made it incredibly easy to use, but it’s important to remember that using data for data’s sake isn’t productive.

Here are my top three takeaways on how we as PR practitioners can better utilize data and how data is changing how we do things:

#1 Data makes it easier to tell a storyif you get it right.

No more are the days where sound decisions can be made on hunches and “gut.” The rise of data makes it much easier for PR practitioners to tell a story with hard facts and figures in order to drive a desired action. But there are pitfalls to this as well: it’s just as hard to get it wrong, especially when you’re choosing to visualize your data.

Take the two charts below: the untrained eye likely won’t be able to tell a difference between the first chart and the second chart. Yet Chart 2 shows a 2% growth in the orange area and 2% drop in the blue areasignificant changes in certain circumstances. So yes, data can be helpful. But just as helpful as the data may be, it’s important that you’re choosing the most effective way to show the data

#2 Data is changing the way we interact with our audiences.

The availability of data makes it possible to slice and dice audiences down to a granular level. In the past, we may have distributed a press release on wire services, pitched some journalists and hoped for the best. Today, with the rise of data and new digital tools, it is incredibly easy to identify and reach audiences with unique messages and create a story. It’s a bottom-up approach to creating news, rather than the top-down approach of news being passed down through newspapers. It’s vital to develop an integrated communications plan for our clients that includes both traditional and digital, data-driven methods.

#3 Data is good. Actionable data is better.

So you’ve compiled all your data points, written your report and sent it to the client. But is the data actionable? If your report is chock full of data but has no story or action items, you’re not demonstrating value to the client. For instance, rather than writing that “70% of our audience resides in X location and prefers Y brand,” explain that “70% of our audience resides in X location, which is a major market for us, but they prefer Y brand, which is a competitor. We suggest a more robust marketing strategy in this area.” You’ve thus used data to tell the story behind the data and suggested an action item to fix the problem. You’ve provided the client with a solution and demonstrated your value at the same time.

Did you attend the Grassroots Professionals Network Data and Advocacy Summit? I would love to hear your takeaways! Share your takeaways in the comment section below.

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