Thought Leadership

How to Use Data to Tell Stories and Attribute PR Value

This post is brought to you by Cision, a proud sponsor of PRSA. Nick Bell will be presenting a professional development session on Oct. 10 at PRSA’s 2017 International Conference in Boston.

Most companies would agree that consumer trust is a valuable commodity — one that can’t be bought or sold. Why? Because the more people that trust your brand, the more often they will choose you over competitors. So how can brands build trust?

According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising study, consumers trust earned media and recommendations from friends and family more than any other source. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of today’s internet users say they almost never click online ads. If these statements are true, then why does paid and owned media get a lion’s share of the marketing budget? Well, that may not be the case much longer.

Seventy-five percent of marketers plan to increase PR spend over the next five years, and as trust and the effectiveness of paid media declines, it creates a wonderful opportunity for PR pros. However, paid media has historically had a significant advantage over earned when it comes to measuring success. That’s one of the reasons why the art of PR now requires the science of data. Data can also help communicators tell better stories.

Read on to learn more about how communicators can use data to tell better stories, and draw a link between their coverage and buyer behavior.

Why Data Is Required for Storytelling

Storytelling is an art, and when done well it touches on human emotion and evokes a connection. Of course, the goal of any PR campaign is to create a connection between your messaging and your target audience — something that can’t be accomplished without a good story. But how do you know what stories will engage your audience?

Seventy-two percent of marketers rate creating more engaging content as their biggest challenge. That’s where data comes in. By applying data to storytelling, communicators can learn what resonates with people and create campaigns that earn results.

 How to Use Data to Tell Better Stories 

Alright, we’ve established why you should use data to tell better stories, but how can you get started? The good news is that data is everywhere, and there are many different sources you can use to your advantage.

 Social Data

Want to know what type of content earns the most shares on social media? Run a search on BuzzSumo. Just enter a keyword (hint: choose one that matters to your business) and the platform pulls in the most shared content on that topic.

Curious about the type of content that your followers engage with? Facebook, Twitter and most other social networks offer a wealth of free analytics. Look back over the past several months to see what type of content was most successful.

Not sure where to distribute your message? Run a Google search to discover demographic data about the types of people that are most active on each social network.

 Audience Data

Would it be valuable if you knew more about the people that are already interested in your brand? Google Analytics has an abundance of data including, but not limited to:

  • Language spoken
  • Country
  • City
  • Browser used
  • Device used
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Behavior (Are they new visitors or returning?)

You also can find audience data by researching independent studies like what the Pew Research Center offers.

 Marketing Data

Much like you can use Google Analytics to view historic demographic data, chances are your company’s marketing team has a variety of data sources they can share with you.

Marketing automation platforms like Marketo track click-through rates on email campaigns, number of downloads for content offers, landing page conversion rates and much more. You don’t have to understand what all of those metrics mean, but you should find out which campaigns performed the best overall.

 Influencer Data

Influencer data is what most PR pros are comfortable with. Using software like Cision, you can easily learn what influencers have the largest audience, what topics they cover, what stories they’ve written, who has the most influence by topic on social media, what media outlets have the biggest following and more.

These examples only scratch the surface of what’s available, but if you can research all of these data points and apply it to your strategy then you can be confident that your PR campaigns will be much more successful.

 Use Data to Demonstrate Impact

Communicators need to re-evaluate how they demonstrate value to their executives. This is a problem that’s plagued the industry for many years. Vanity metrics like ad value equivalency (AVE), impressions and share of voice are not enough.

PR needs to track customer behavior, web traffic and revenue generated from communications programs. You can get some of this data through platforms like Google Analytics, but the Cision Communications Cloud™ will soon have all the analytics tools you need to measure impact.

Finally, you will be able to show the impact PR is having on your company’s bottom line, and use data to improve the performance of future programs.

It all comes down to using data and technology to craft relevant content and campaigns, identify influencers and measure results against business goals.

Nick Bell is the vice president of marketing communications at Cision. With more than 20 years of technology marketing experience, Bell has held executive-level positions with marketing technology firms including Oracle Marketing Cloud, Eloqua and Adobe. Bell has a proven track record of developing award-winning and ROI-based marketing programs, media relations and brand strategies. Bell holds a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @nbell94102.

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Nick Bell

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