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The Meaning of Data Driven PR

Practically every PR agency will tell you it is data driven. You’ll find it mentioned somewhere on its website, or you’ll hear it when the agency pitches your business. We live in an era driven by data insights, so it would be malpractice for an agency to neglect data in the running of your communications program.

But what does data-driven PR mean, exactly?

There is not a clear, definitive answer to, “What is data-driven PR?” For many (if not most) agencies, data-driven PR refers to the collection of data on the back end of the process. How did that press release perform? How much engagement was there with that social post? How many people did your company’s media stories reach this month? What is your company’s share of voice compared to your competitors — what percentage of the total articles for the quarter mention you vs. your competitors?

This back-end data is important to consider as a measure of your PR program’s success (or failure), and certainly Seismic employs sophisticated measurement tools for all of our client programs. Ideally, this type of data collection leads to course corrections when necessary, as it does in the Seismic methodology. But we’re talking data driven here. We value data for what it tells us about how to begin a tailored PR program for each of our clients. Data is critical to the Learn phase of our methodology — which we engage in at the start of our work with a new client to help Design and Build a successful communications program.

Competitive Landscape: At the outset of every client engagement, Seismic conducts deep research into our client’s past media performance and measures that performance against key competitors. We look at raw numbers: how many stories, social engagement, the aforementioned share of voice, how many press releases. But we also contextualize those numbers with consideration of the industry itself and the behavior of the target customer. Is the industry segment much written about or hardly understood by the media? Are customers looking for content that helps them understand your highly-technical product or do they want confirmation of the value of your offering from industry KOLs? Are they more influenced by their peers’ social media or do they want to work with an award-winning company?

The Client Data Storehouse: Also part of the Learn phase is understanding the data that your company uses and collects and figuring out how that data might drive strategies for your communications program. Do you have unique insights from your customer interactions that can provide context for a reporter? Do you have benchmarking data that can tell a trend story over time? In our Learn phase, we work with you to plumb the data your company stores to develop compelling narratives to share with the world.

Learn… and Keep Learning: Remember that back-end data that we talked about earlier? We measure that during the Test phase of our methodology — as we noted, Seismic is not unique in collecting data on share of voice, engagement and impressions. Where we are different is that this phase connects right back to another Learn phase, where we diagnose what the data tells us about the performance of your program. We take that understanding and — with your feedback, another type of data point — embark on a process to rework what fell short and to enhance what worked well.

Ultimately the data that is collected in support of a communications program is of little value if not properly digested, understood and put to work in support of designing a more effective communications program. So when agencies tell you how important data is, your next questions should be: Tell me, how does data drive what you do?


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