Thought Leadership

Meet PR’s New Best Friend: Data

*This article was provided by Cision, a PRSA partner.

The big data revolution has pushed the public relations industry forward. No longer should gut feeling or instinct be the sole determinant for strategy and progress.

Public relations success in today’s world requires consistently reviewing and revamping metrics, and that’s something you can see from the leaders in the industry.

In June, we saw AMEC upgrade its 5-year-old measurement guidelines to Barcelona Principles 2.0. We’ve also seen metrics like AVE (advertising value equivalency), which measures the perceived value of media placements, take a backseat to things that more accurately showcase ROI, such as share of voice, mindshare, traffic and increased sales attributed to specific campaigns or activities.

The focus on data within the public relations industry has occurred for a number of reasons, including:

  1. A shift to digital and advanced technologies provides communication professionals with greater access to information about their audience and efforts.
  2. Data provides an avenue for communication professionals to tie PR efforts back to business objectives and the bottom line.
  3. According to Forbes, businesses with data-driven practices are almost three times more likely to see revenues increase than industry peers.
  4. Journalists and reporters crave data that they can use to report on your industry or trends at large.

Those are four great reasons more and more brands, including your competitors, are taking deeper dives into data. Let’s explore how to turn the opportunities data provides into real-life benefits.

Data Closes Deals

If data is communication fuel, analysis is the racecar that gives it purpose. Just gathering a bunch of data doesn’t provide benefit. It’s up to communicators to interpret this data to derive insights and actionable takeaways for how to drive forward.

In other words, instead of just reporting increases and decreases, you need to understand what created those changes and develop a plan to capitalize on successes and improve areas of weakness.

For example, you might see your brand’s share of voice plateaued in the first quarter. That signals a need to reevaluate your campaigns. Perhaps, you need to pivot to discuss more relevant topics or reach out to an emerging influencer who is firing up your audience.

In a more positive example, suppose you see a measurable traffic spike after a particular campaign. This shows you’ve satisfied one of your audience’s needs, and you may want to take a more in-depth dive into the topic in your next campaign.

These insights are paramount in identifying how your brand should move forward in terms of content creation and influencer partnerships as we pursue the ultimate goal of pushing our target audiences to take the actions we need to achieve our organizational goals.

Data Fills the Funnel

Data also pays dividends at the top of the funnel.

As mentioned above, fresh data provides journalists fresh angles in their reporting. In the ultra-competitive media world, journalists are constantly on the prowl for an edge. Providing that data, perhaps as an exclusive, gives your brand the opportunity to share its message with its target audience through a trusted medium.

If you can present the data in the form of high-quality multimedia, it will only increase your chances of gaining coverage.

As with any type of media outreach, you will want to ensure that the data covers a topic that not only fits the beat of a particular journalist or blogger but the particular topics they are interested in at that very moment. You will also want to ensure that their audience significantly overlaps the particular subset of your prospects and customers you are attempting to reach.

The most effective way of gaining all this information is to invest in a robust influencer database.

What Data Works

Curation can work with content, but with data, original is better. Not only does it help your brand stand out, it allows you to build insights around your specific audience. After all, no two audiences are the same.

Original data also increases the chance that your brand will receive coverage. According to Cision’s State of the Media 2016 Report, 42 percent of reporters said communication professionals could improve their media relations by providing  “information and expert sources.”

The possibilities are endless with data, and they can be sliced and diced any way. For example, we recently used our software to measure conversations on social media about the Democratic and Republican nominees for the 2016 presidential race.

We measured share of voice and top topics of conversation for each and the data got included in Politico and USA Today. This is a great example of providing relevant, original and timely data to a reporter.

Here’s a hypothetical to consider: a company like Hershey’s could provide data on how much chocolate sales increase around Valentine’s Day. Not only will this help their marketing and production teams, it provides an opportunity to use the data to get coverage from lifestyle or food publications.

What would be even better? If they visualized the data in a chart or infographic. That’s a really unique and interesting trend that communication professionals should harness.


As discussed above, data has ultimately shifted the way we approach and measure modern-day public relations.

Communication professionals who choose not to incorporate data into their efforts are willingly giving up the opportunity to understand their audience’s needs, discover new and interesting angles to pitch reporters and prove PR’s true value on the bottom line.

But those that embrace data are the forward-thinkers who will deliver significant business outcomes and set the route the public relations industry takes next.

*This article was provided by Cision, a PRSA partner.

Stacey Miller is the senior manager, communications at Cision. During her ten years with the company, she has pioneered influencer marketing, employee advocacy, lead generation and customer service programs through both traditional and social media. An internationally sought keynote speaker, her writing has appeared in Forbes, CIO and VentureBeat, as well over 500 authored blogs. Stacey is frequently quoted in online publications as well as published books, including several college textbooks. Consistently mentioned in “top people to follow” and “up and coming pros” lists, Oracle named Stacey a finalist for its Community Manager of the Year Award in 2012.

About the author

Stacey Miller


  • Interesting commentary. Hoping that some day we go beyond media relations when discussing “public relations.” Our field is far more diverse than one tactic, and today there are PR campaigns, agencies and professionals who rarely use media outreach. It’s not that media coverage is unimportant — it can play a critical role in some types of campaigns to reach some audiences. But it is also not the only arrow in our quiver, so when we use the terms interchangably, as if media relations = PR, we unfairly limit perceptions of our work and will continue to be seen as the people who do press releases.

  • Hello Miller, Very interesting topic. Here you have discussed that data has ultimately shifted the way we approach and measure modern-day public relations. If you can present the data in the form of high-quality multimedia, it will only increase your chances of gaining coverage.

  • Hello Cision, The big data era will come soon or it can be stated that the evolution has already started. It has been noticed that the leading industries of the world had performed well with the public relations. The audience has the attraction towards the professional nature of public relation.

  • I believe that PR professionals must become more proficient at interpreting data and statistics. They need to have a clear understanding of the methodologies used to analyze data and use them to our clients’ advantage.


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