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How Public Relations Should Use Data and Analytics to Inform Strategy


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August 24, 2017

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I was pleased to be invited to blog for Digital DNA.

Too long have PR and digital been separated.

PR has moved into the digital sphere using social media as a key engagement tool and is evermore looking to marry PR and SEO, which is a natural link.

Our toolbox

As public relations has evolved, so has its toolkit.

It’s still about reputation management and building relationships with ‘publics’, but it’s got even more areas to monitor, engage and activate since social media and blogs came booming into our world.

I wrote a post last year about how working in public relations requires more than PR skills which discussed other skills and business knowledge needed to work in public relations. Worth a read if you fancy learning about PR brains!

Public relations has to completely understand audiences, how they think and act, where they hang out, what they like and don’t like and with this knowledge, comes one of the most powerful things we can leverage.

But what I am interested in, and have been for some time, is how we use the information we have at our fingertips to inform a strategy.

What has data and analytics go to do with PR?

It’s all very well having experience in a particular area of work, but every business is different, every audience is different and the way they interact will depend on how well the brand is set up to communicate.

As an example, before we got access to the back end of websites and started to discover customer journeys, we relied upon what we generally knew about a certain audience and the most recent market reports.

Now, we can roll up our sleeves and get geeky with lots of numbers and information.

Take the likes of Facebook Audience– it “gives you aggregated information about three groups of people – people connected to your Page, people in your Custom Audience and people on Facebook – so that you can create content that resonates and easily find more people similar to the ones in your current audience.”

  1. Demographics overview
  2. Find out what people like
  3. Learn about lifestyles

With two billion monthly users across the world, it’s a fantastic resource and place to start.

Similarly, Google’s tools such as Trends and Keyword Planner are an absolute godsend to people like me. It literally tells me what’s popular, how much competition there is to rank and much more.

So, gathering information and data is easier than ever but how do you use it and ensure what you’ve got is relevant, to inform strategy?

The key is to ask the right business question and knowing what problem you’re trying to solve.

How to translate this into insight and action

My clients love how I can produce such information.

Even the smallest client with the smallest budget doesn’t have to spend big bucks in this area as tools like Google Analytics and most software/platforms have their own in-built analytics.

With a plethora of information, it’s up to us to ensure that when we’re translating data, we make it into an insight – what is it telling us? Coming back to the problem we’re trying to solve, only analyse the data you need to solve the problem.

Always remember to include the what, how and the why when you present to the board – they will be interested in the insight but they’ll be jumping ahead to ask what, why and how. By realising this, you have the answer to the problem and can inform the decisions made.

Top tip: Don’t get lost in data. Ensure you translate data which is relevant.

At #PRFest in June, Andrew Bruce Smith was invited to speak about using data and analytics to inform strategy. Why? Because PR practitioners and other disciplines in marketing communications don’t always understand the value of what’s sitting right under their noses!

Andrew makes an excellent point in his guest post for #PRFest: “data used to inform and shape communication approaches has traditionally been drawn from sources that aren’t aligned with the type of metrics that senior decision makers are prepared to pay real attention to.”

In addition, Andrew makes some key points around ‘dirty’ data. Data which is affected by bots, bad filtering, fake accounts etc. PR practitioners need to take the right steps to ensure they are using relevant data only.

In Summary

Public relations is no longer about churning out meaningless press releases and no longer relies on media coverage to convey messages.

Social media has allowed us to have two-way conversations with the very people we are trying to engage.

As PR grasps the opportunities to use tools which give us insight, we are now writing better informed strategies, supporting business objectives and delivering measurable results.

Laura Sutherland is a Chartered PR Practitioner, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Founder of #PRFest, the world’s only festival dedicated to the modernisation of public relations with a focus on professional development. She runs her consultancy, Aura, based in Glasgow, and works across the UK.

Connect with Laura on LinkedIn. Follow Laura on Twitter and Instagram @laurafromaura. Email Laura here.

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