Using Data to Prove and Improve Your PR Programs


We all know our world is in the midst of a data explosion that has the potential to inform insights across every industry and facet of society.

According to a recent whitepaper from IDC, they predict the world’s data will grow to 175 zettabytes in 2025. To put that into perspective, if you attempted to download 175 zettabytes at the average current internet connection speed, it would take you 1.8 billion years (Source: IDC, ‘Data Age 2025’). Yet while all of these ‘breadcrumbs’ are being left by our digital footprints, the process for collecting, and more importantly analyzing, this data is still in its nascent phase.

And therein lies the opportunity.

As communications practitioners, the PR industry is sitting on a proverbial gold mine of data just waiting to be extracted. We all know it’s true, yet, well, it’s complicated…

A recent survey from Ragan uncovered that 50 percent of PR professionals believe that measuring their impact is a weakness. We also know it’s often difficult to fund measurement tools, let alone put dollars against analyzing data, especially in the PR world where budgets typically represent a fraction of ad/marketing spend.

The fact is data is now available in ways it never has been before, which should be used to both inform marketing and PR programs and prove results. So, let’s break that down a little further.

For those who have begun to mine data to inform programs, the vast majority are using the same tools that uncover the same baseline insights in the hopes of creating programs that standout. This logic is flawed.

At Weber Shandwick, we are challenging ourselves and our clients to go a layer or two deeper to see what others don’t. This, we believe, is how we’ll create more impactful and measureable programs informed by meaningful data. Below is a snapshot of how we envision the future of dynamic data analysis.

By developing proprietary tools and working alongside data scientists, our goal is to uncover issues, identify what drives the actions of our target audience and inspire creative in ways that can deliver real impact for organizations. We believe this is the future of effective communications. It’s a future where we’ll be able to interpret meaningful data to optimize and improve our programs. A future where we will put as much emphasis on the science of communications as the art so that we can demonstrate the value of our craft.

For many, the ultimate goal in any communications program is to help drive business results. There are many ways to do this; however, let’s focus on a core PR tactic – securing media coverage in third-party outlets.

Most would agree that not all media placements are created equal. So how can we use data to assess the impact of coverage in helping achieve your organization’s goals? At Weber Shandwick, we believe in viewing earned media impact through a multifaceted lens, which takes into account several factors, including R2EAL. Our process assesses earned media placements against the above factors to determine the true impact of each. With this knowledge, communications professionals can prioritize the outlets and opportunities with the most benefit to their audiences, ultimately delivering greater return on their PR investment.

Like the data itself, the ways it can inform our programs is complex. But the time is now to begin using it – smartly – to both prove and improve our programs.

Interested in learning more? Visit Weber Shandwick Detroit’s website.

Brian Buchwald is the Head of Global Intelligence for Weber Shandwick. He was most recently the CEO of Bomoda, the newly acquired advanced analytics division of Weber Shandwick.