From data to information
Data can be invaluable to your PR practices, but only if you take the time to translate it into actionable insights. During his talk at PR is Key, OBI4wan’s Alexander de Ruiter explained how.
Data in itself is not very important or valuable. We all gather data in one way or another, but if you only glance at it and go about your usual business, the data is not going to provide any useful information. Most organizations create and publish content based on their own needs and predictions, and turn to data afterwards to check if they performed like they thought they would. But what if you turn that order around?
Thinking before speaking
Practicing PR with the use of data means manoeuvring through a never-ending cycle of publishing content, monitoring results and market trends, analyzing gathered data, and engaging with your audience. If you start a campaign with monitoring instead of publishing, you can use market insights and data to help decide what you need to create, and predict what the outcomes will be. This greatly improves the chance your efforts will turn out to be worthwhile.
Currently, upper management often instructs PR professionals to create a content strategy based on preconceived notions about company and customer needs. Data generally doesn’t factor in, even though every organization has access to it. Even if you don’t actively collect data yourself, there’s enough of it available in the public space, for instance on social media and review sites. The focus for determining what content to create should shift from self-proclaimed certainties to data-backed arguments.
From raw data to personal contact
When it comes to engaging with your audience to positively influence your reputation, it’s important to dismiss the misconception that your organization has an online and an offline reputation. Newspaper stories end up on social media and vice versa. You have only one reputation, and data can help you manage it. For example, OBI4wan’s own data showed that using the company’s corporate social media accounts led to much less engagement (20%) than using personal employee accounts (up to 70-80%).
So though you may be tempted to push your brand by sending everything through your corporate account, you should never forget social media are still about individual people communicating with each other. This is also relevant when analyzing why a specific piece of content was particularly successful or unsuccessful. Who are the influencers who are framing your story in a positive or negative way? What are they picking up on? Are they journalists or public figures? Would you benefit from reaching their audiences by engaging with them? Knowing why you’re performing the way you are is crucial for the engagement part of your PR cycle.
Of course, there are countless ways you can gather, analyze and use data for your PR practices. Historical data can help you decide what to create, when to publish it and how to distribute it. Real-time monitoring data can then assist in engaging with influencers and stakeholders. It can reveal all kinds of traffic and feedback, and you shouldn’t restrict yourself to only responding to negative comments. If you ignore the positive messages, people will eventually stop posting them, wiping out your opportunities for sharing free endorsements. It’s not bragging if someone else is saying it!