There’s a running joke that PR pros hate math outright and dislike numbers in general.
Unfortunately, we have earned that reputation and have struggled to measure meaningful results and present strong cases for our ideas and suggestions.
Numbers are necessary in our day-to-day routine, and to succeed, PR pros must conquer their fear of math, data and statistics.
Here are three practical reasons why we need data on our side:
1. To strengthen pitches.
“Prove it!” If I had a nickel for every time I heard this from a reporter after sending a pitch, I’d be a wealthy woman.
Don’t be afraid to use statistics to support ideas and opinions. If you’re trying to stress the importance of recyclable materials, grab a stat from the EPA about the amount of garbage thrown away each year to drive home your point.
Here’s a tip: Subscribe to Pew Research Center, which regularly issues email newsletters with its latest research. The newsletters are often tied to current topics in the news, so you won’t have to search high and low for a timely pitch.
2. To prove value.
Unless you work in finance, which shows literal return on investment, proving the value of your work can be challenging. Change your approach to reporting. (Luckily, many services and tools, particularly in PR and marketing, automate the process.)
Rather than simply listing the activities you conducted over a given period of time, give your client numbers and explain what they mean within the context of your program goals, marketing goals and overall business goals. Ultimately, leaders want to see impact, and if you can tell a story with numbers—reach, engagement, website traffic, contribution to sales, etc.— you’ll make their job easier and prove your work is worth their investment.
3. To show potential.
Not only do these metrics (impressions, total views, social media engagement) track results, they showcase the potential for further exposure. A smart PR professional stays abreast of new media platforms, social media networks, events and more, and in order to convince the higher-ups that these new avenues are worthy of their resources, you must make your case clearly. Use numbers to your advantage, e.g. “this platform will reach an additional XX number of decision makers.”
Numbers aren’t frightening. They can make our lives much easier—and more successful—but we must get over the false fears that so many of us have. If you want to get ahead, use statistics, technology and data to your advantage.
A version of this post first appeared on the Stern Strategy Group blog.