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How to Master the Art of Data-driven PR

How to Master the Art of Data-driven PR

In today’s world, the best of the best have one thing in common. They have all accepted the fact that very rarely a company itself is interesting enough for people to want to follow everything it does. In other words, the difference between public relations of the past and future is clear. The old approach, that many are still advocates of, is to wait for news and information to come to you. But times have changed. No one cares about your company’s news. No one is waiting for you to send a press release. Would you read yours if you weren’t biased or didn’t get paid for it? Exactly.

So who wins the attention of the crowd and those precious publicity spots these days? Those, who simply master the art of creating news that both the media and people want to talk about. There are three key notions that companies need to embrace in order to get started.

  1. Firstly, they need to broaden their viewpoint when it comes to the function of public relations. PR is not solely about spreading number-heavy business facts out to the world in the form of a press release.
  2. Secondly, they should accept that the opportunities for great PR often need to be created, invented and made.
  3. And lastly, information should be primarily targeted for those that are most likely to find the message interesting, actionable and worthwhile.

When working on mastering each of the three notions mentioned, it all comes down to data.

What press release?

Start by forgetting about the good old press release for a second. Instead, use data to research topics, innovations, pieces of news or even other companies that people are engaging with the most. When you’ve done your homework, start ideating. Eventually, you’ll need an idea that is related to both trending topics and your company.

Here are some approaches that have been proven to work well:

  • Connect your message to calendar events, trending topics and news
  • Collaborate with an unexpected partner to shake (read: shock) the industry and media
  • Challenge another facet to take a stance with you on a cause you both find important
  • Hijack an event or happening with an original stunt or ad that sparks conversation

Break the Internet, trust the data

This is the part where you come up with the idea that has the potential to break the internet. To come up with one, you need to use data (and your brains) to identify pieces of content that people actively spread and engage with over and over again. It makes no sense to spam medias or reporters with information that is irrelevant for them. It feels insane to think that this next advice would ever be considered disruptive in 2018, but it is. To reach and exceed your PR goals, use data to find the people that you know will find your message interesting. It’s crucial to think about the people receiving your press push first (yes, instead of your own company and objective). Both your lists and content should be data-driven and intelligently curated.

Measure to win

As a former data analyst, the only right thing to do is to preach about measuring as the final conclusion. One of the most crucial aspects of data-driven PR is to keep track of and measure success. You should be following closely who is actually writing about you in order to optimize your future pushes. In other words, you should be tracking all of your social media and editorial hits. In addition, you should be measuring how worthy your efforts have been. Once you know your hits, the value of those is easy to calculate and the monetary benefit even more effortless to grasp.

There are a few good ways to measure success and communicate the results of data-driven PR both upwards and downwards. The following are frequently used formulas and examples fictitious.

Article quality score

This one is crucial. As much as you’d like to report big numbers, quality almost always beats quantity. Make sure to validate a quality score system for your hits based on the media you’re aiming to be featured in. In other words, start a simple pointing system where you for example give the highest five points to an article that has appeared in a well-know b-to-b media with over 5M monthly visitors. The lowest score, one point, will be given to publications that have appeared in medias with less than 500 000 monthly visitors.

You should also determine what is considered a credible media hit that genuinely contributes towards your KPIs. Maybe non-unique articles (articles published on a page that solely republishes unedited press releases) will not even be counted towards KPIs in your case.


This is a metric I personally like debating about. It often reminds most of us about sales, but ROI can also be calculated for PR. To do so, one must evaluate for example the cost of a single lead.

You managed to analyze that PR has brought 45 new leads. Leads in this case refer to people who have sent your company an email as a result of a PR push. According to your calculations, each of your new leads is worth 230€. The PR investment made totaled at 5000€. What is the PR ROI?

Answer: PR ROI is 5350€.

Formula: The value of a new lead x number of new leads – PR Investment

Website referrals

Another simple way to determine whether PR has worked is to track website referrals and incoming links. Incoming links are naturally valuable as they bring more traffic to your page but also improve its SEO score. Referrals are easy to spot from Google Analytics. Unfortunately, not all medias will hyperlink your page and it is important to also keep track of mentions.

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Janni Widerholm
Creative Content Strategist, Partner

An award-winning creative and content strategist working in the forefront of data-driven, reactive advertising. Passionate about turning opportunities into modern content that fights against conventions.

Janni Widerholm
Creative Content Strategist, Partner

An award-winning creative and content strategist working in the forefront of data-driven, reactive advertising. Passionate about turning opportunities into modern content that fights against conventions.