Image courtesy of flickr user Jorge Franganillo

10 ways to use data in public relations

Public relations is becoming increasingly data driven. That’s a good thing.

Big data has been adopted by the public relations business in a wave of enthusiasm in the last 10 years.

Data should always be the basis of good practice. It’s a planning fundamental.

Ketchum practitioners worldwide are trained in a four stage process that covers the domains of research, insight, strategy and creative (RISC).

It’s a framework employed as a standard throughout the business from Brazil to Brussels, and from San Francisco to Singapore.

RISC

In recent years the internet has made it easier than ever to gain public relations insight. Now that so much of human life and media touches the internet, it takes very little effort to gain basic insight into public behaviour.

We have unprecedented access to data that can enable us to understand audiences or publics, and listen to what they think about us, our products and services, competitors and our market.

In this sense the social web is a massive market research exercise that no ever commissioned. Increasingly there are tools to help us to cut these large amounts of data down to size.

We use this insight to help plan campaigns, develop measurable objectives, and measure the outcomes of our work. It’s adding rigor to our jobs.

Here are ten areas where data is being used in public relations.

#1 Searching for answers

Use Google Keyword planner to understand how publics are searching the web. Tools such as Answer the public and Keywordtool will help simplify analysis.

#2 Research reports

Scour the web for relevant data. The International Telecommunication Union, Mary Meeker’s annual internet report, OFCOM and UK Office for National Statistics, are all good starting points for free data.

#3 Talk to people

When did you last talk to your stakeholders? Seek out your public and ask them what they think and how they feel. You’ll almost certainly always learn something. This frequently provides good data points for creating campaign personas.

#4 Questionnaires

If you can’t talk to people the next best way of seeking out opinion is to use a survey. It’s scalable but be careful what and who you ask to participate. Google Forms or SurveyMonkey are good, low cost options.

#5 Behavioural insight

The best way to discover how people respond to an issue is to watch how they react and what they do. There’s often a huge difference between how people react and the action they take and how they say they reacted. That’s human nature.

#6 Quantitative research

The data business is incredibly valuable. In every market data gathers collect information and repurpose it for organisations in reports. You’ll typically need a significant budget to access this specialist information.

#7 Seek out academic expertise

Google Scholar is a search engine for academic research that will help find relevant research while ResearchGate will connect you directly with academics.

#8 Media habits

Increasingly social media platforms make consumer behaviour available for free. Facebook Audience Insights is a good place to start. It provides insight into the 1.6 billion people that use the platform each month.

#9 Social media listening

Whenever you’re asked why an organisation should engage on social media, use a listening tool to explore conversations around the organisation and its market. You’ll almost certainly find something useful.

#10 Owned media

If you’re working with an organisation that has an app or website ask for access to its web analytics. This will provide insight on how people get to the site and what they do when they get there.

Final point. Always track back to the original source and review data through a sceptical lens for bias, whatever the source.

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Image courtesy of flickr user Jorge Franganillo

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Author #brandvandals, #PRstack, Share This, and others.

Posted in Digital and Tech
One comment on “10 ways to use data in public relations
  1. Alan Smith says:

    Good insights Stephen! We certainly agree that the social web makes for a superb “market intelligence radar system” – not least because the content & comments are (mostly) spontaneous – and certainly authentic, and also because we can engage directly with participants, influencers, customers, pundits, even journalists (in all their guises) – so much so that we’ve backed ourselves to create technology to tap this potential. Question: how well are PR professionals using data and social? How prevalent is it?

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