Use data-driven PR to boost authority—and media mentions

Savvy communicators can gain an edge by slaking reporters’ thirsts for facts and research.


Journalists have embraced data journalism.

The fondness for stories backed by thorough research offers PR teams juicy opportunities. Communicators can land media placements by crafting stories based on data and by producing evidence-based copy that journalists crave.

With public trust at record-low levels, data-fueled PR is an effective strategy for gaining media mentions and promoting an organization’s message.

New research supports journalists’ increasing preference for data journalism, too. Google News Lab and PolicyViz surveyed more than 900 journalists in the United States and Europe and conducted 56 in-person interviews to reveal:

  • Forty-two percent of reporters use data to tell stories regularly (twice or more per week).
  • Fifty-one percent of all news organizations in the U.S. and Europe now have a dedicated data journalist—and this rises to 60 percent for digital-only platforms.
  • Thirty-three percent of journalists use data for political stories, followed by 28 percent for finance and 25 percent for investigative stories.
  • Forty-nine percent of data stories are created in a day or less, highlighting journalists’ time pressures.

Data for the post-truth era

One interviewed journalist summarized the importance of research:

Data is a good way of getting to the truth of things … in this post-truth era, this work is increasingly important. We are all desperately searching for facts.

Data journalism involves collecting and analyzing data and transforming it into easily digestible stories—often with data visualizations. Despite the substantial benefits of data-backed storytelling, few PR teams are taking advantage of it.

Those who do employ the strategy often struggle to do it well, experts say.

PR pro Ashley Durkin-Rixey write in a Stanton Communications blog post:

As public relations professionals, it is imperative that we understand data from clients or what we provide to our clients will not simply be taken at face value every time.

Follow these tips to use data effectively:

1. Read the AP Stylebook. The 2017 AP Stylebook includes a chapter on data journalism. It’s intended for journalists, but PR pros can find it highly beneficial as well.

2. Select three strong data points to highlight for news releases. Let the numbers do the talking—and let researchers or organizational spokespeople interpret the data.

3. Avoid bias perceptions. Include a transparent methodology that reveals how your research was conducted. Also disclose any financial relationships upfront and collect information from reputable sources, such as government databases.

4. Take advantage of internal data. Corporate PR pros are not limited to public databases like journalists are. “Almost every enterprise has unique data flows that can be harnessed for data PR (even after allowing for confidentiality and competitive considerations),” writes Andy Gray, an analytics executive with Deloitte Australia.

5. Analyze social media. Online analytics can provide a wealth of data and insights for almost any industry.

6. Make data appealing and interactive. “Sometimes people need more than simple pie charts and graphs to understand data,” says Pratik Dholakiya, co-founder of E2M. “Data journalists get that. And as a result, they must continuously hone their design and development skills.”

If you want to brush up on analytical skills, take a free course in statistics and data analytics. If you’re not sure where to start, consult with a data expert.

Data-driven PR is a potent strategy for gaining publicity and grabbing the attention of journalists. It’s just a matter of putting in the work to collect and recast the data in an appealing way.

A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.

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