Use data to create stories with media cut-through

Anyone who shares an office with me knows that spending hours combing through data in Excel is my idea of a dream. In my line of work, I need to be creating great stories that the media want to cover - something easier said than done, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Financial restraints mean I can’t opt to do an awesome video with a celebrity or organise a stunt, which means creativity and a keen news sense is key. This is why data is my constant ally and I’ve managed to use all kinds of data research to power some amazing campaigns that get results. In this post I’m going to explain how to get the most from your data in order to pitch a stellar story to the media.

Figure out the story you want to tell

Obvious, right, but crucial. There’s a lot of data out there, so before doing anything you need to understand the story you want to tell to allow you to hone in on your methodology. Note that this shouldn’t be an angle as such - you don’t necessarily know what you’ll find yet - but an overarching story. Use your customer demographic information here - what would interest them? Is there anything hot in the media at the moment or particularly seasonal? If I ran a fleet management company, my customers might want to know how many companies have issued internal advice about the recent freak snowy weather we’ve had in the UK, so I may want to find data on this.

Surveys are just the tip of the iceberg

The media loves a good survey and truthfully they can be super effective. Surveys can generate some really great fresh, unique data for a news hook. Using dedicated market research company to run a survey for you can net results in a matter of days aimed at even niche demographics, but these can often cost quite a bit of money. If you have a big customer base and a newsletter, you may want to try an e-shot survey. It’s cheaper, but unless you have an incentive or super engaged customers, you may come out with just a small sample size.

But don’t think that surveys are the only ways to get data because I’m going to let you into a secret… pretty much everything can be quantified. Ok, here’s what I mean. Say I’m running a job recruitment company and I want to find out what makes a great CV. I could totally survey 1000 SME decision-makers and ask about what they look for in a CV. That’s a good idea, but not the only way of telling the story with data. Suppose instead I took 200 CVs of people who had been successfully recruited to a certain role and analysed these anonymously (all within GDPR guidelines, might I add), looking at the skills provided, CV length, qualifications and type of language used. I then bring together the commonalities from this analysis to draw up trends I’ve seen in these CVs. I’m probably going to discover some cool stuff I didn’t know before and some information about CV writing my customers would love.

What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid to get inventive with data. Look at Google Analytics to discover anomalies in web traffic to certain pages, transactional data to find finance trends, or cross reference government stats to come up with a new dataset.

Visualise it

Numbers can be intimidating, especially if there’s a lot of them, which is why visualising your data story in graphic form can help the audience digest the information. Even creating simple charts can help, so don’t forget to pull the most pertinent data to prettify into graphs. This is going to do a couple of things for you. The journalist can use it to complement the article - imagery is attractive to readers. You can alsi add it to your own site to help drive those all important links for SEO benefit.

Using data can help you create great stories, providing you know what you’re looking for. Remember that you don’t always have to run a survey - there are plenty of creative ways to get data. It might take some extra time, but the effort will be worthwhile when you’re getting some fantastic media coverage for your brand.


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