Data-driven Digital PR: from numbers to narrative

Rachel McHugh | 17th January 2023 | Digital PR

A great digital PR campaign has solid foundations: it’s well-researched, relevant and compelling. Having reliable data to form the basis of a campaign not only adds credibility — it can also be an essential part of the storytelling that will elevate the campaign and make it worth publishing. Using data is one of the most effective ways to gain links, so knowing how to interpret it and turn it into a story is a critical skill for successful digital PR. 

Journalists receive hundreds of emails and pitches every day, so unique and interesting data will help your campaign stand out. Journalists, particularly from top-tier publications, will need sufficient quantifiable data to maintain the credibility of the piece. If your press release can tell a story, rather than simply stating the facts, you’ll be able to provide something interesting to both the journalist and their readers.

Data also adds context to your digital PR stories. Using numbers can highlight similarities or differences that text alone might not be able to capture. For example, “UK house prices have risen by 71% in the last decade” tells the reader more than “house prices continue to increase”. It also makes for a more eye-catching headline.

Start with a reliable data source

You might already have a campaign idea and need to find data to support this, or you might want to use available data to help guide or inspire your ideation. Either way, it’s important that your data comes from a reliable and reputable source. 

There are hundreds of free datasets available on the internet or you can collect your own data. You could integrate web scraping to extract large amounts of data from websites like TripAdvisor or social media platforms (the possibilities are endless here) or you could run a survey. Just make sure your sample size is large enough as this could be the difference between a journalist covering your story or not. 

When looking for data to use for a digital PR campaign, there are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is the data interesting?
  • Is the data unique?
  • Is the source reputable and trustworthy?
  • How recent is the data?
  • Does the data have the potential to tell a story?

This will help you identify whether a dataset has the potential to form part of a successful PR campaign. 

Taking data and turning it into a story

Once you have gathered all your data, you’ll need to dig through it to draw out the key findings. Here are some things to look for:

  • Correlations
  • Trends in the data
  • What are the highest & lowest values
  • Draw comparisons
  • Outliers 
  • Data that is counterintuitive or surprising

Looking for these can help you find data points to include in your on-site and press release copy that will add context and interest. As you go through the data, you’ll also start to identify a story angle. This might be highlighting the trends, surprising facts or concerns you’ve uncovered or relating the data you have to current news stories and tying it back to your brand.

You don’t have to include all of the data you find. Be selective. Storytelling is subjective, so rather than listing or stating all of the data you’ve found, choose elements of the data you want to highlight to start to form a story. Connect the pieces of data together with supporting copy or visualisations to communicate it in a way that is digestible for the target audience but will also get your point across.

In summary, a strong data-driven campaign requires reliable data and a well-thought-out methodology. Be selective with the data you choose to include or highlight in your press materials to form a strong angle. Supporting copy will bring the press release together, but data adds context and can make a headline more attractive.

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