How to Develop a Data-driven PR Strategy

White Paper

In this whitepaper, we will delve deeper into how you can utilise data in your PR campaigns, the various elements that comprise the overall strategy and how you can develop a winning data-driven PR strategy to get your brand the quality coverage it deserves.

Using real examples, this guide will highlight why you need to consider data-led PR as part of your brand communications strategy and, crucially, how to implement one that is effective in engaging your target audiences.

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Why do you need to consider data-led PR?

You know what works well for your brand’s sell-in strategy, but is your developed strategy the best for both client and sell-in? In this whitepaper, we will delve deeper into how you can utilise data in your PR campaigns, the various elements that comprise the overall strategy and how you can develop a winning data-driven PR strategy to get your brand the quality coverage it deserves.

So, why carry out a data-led PR campaign?

Quite simply, the more cohesive elements you have in a campaign, the stronger the media interest will be. Incorporating data into your strategy will immediately add that newsworthy sell, more so if the data is the very first of its kind - the PR dream!

Data can come from a handful of sources, but the more reliable and reputable, the stronger your coverage is likely to be. Think of your audience and target publications. Is a survey going to get you the best data, or would governmental data be better?

Highlighting recent successes can be done with unique sales data, just make sure you’re keeping the balance between your own client and the readers of the publication.

The brand should be at the heart of the story, but remember the reality that not everyone will be as interested in your brand as you are. Keep the audience in mind and consider how this will affect the wider industry and target audience.

Whether data-led PR is the right strategy for your campaign lies in the client and the data you’ll be gathering. It’s not always going to be the best option, but when it is, it can bring some legitimate authority to the story you’re trying to tell.

Everyone says that reading the last page of the book is the worst way to read, but that’s not always the case with a PR strategy. Think of the end goal, the headline and the publication that you’re aiming for. If you’re creating a headline that reads “X amount of people think this” then a survey is a must to include in your strategy.

Likewise, think of your whole strategy as telling the story of the brand. You need to keep the audience engaged for them to get to that final page and position your brand as the hero, the driving force behind the success of the story.

Choosing a data-driven PR campaign will add a backbone to any story, particularly a creative piece that may need more than an interactive quiz to catch the eye of the media. But, keep that final headline in mind, if the stats aren’t strong enough or they don’t play a part in the end goal at all, then a data-led approach may not be the best for your campaign.

Creating your data-led PR strategy

Applying data-led PR to your campaigns is sometimes easier said than done, but working backwards is often a good place to start with the strategy.

Review your data sources

If you set out to tell a story with stats then you first need to know where that story is going to come from. If you have a robust internal data-set that you’re able to take advantage off, then this is often a good starting point. However, if you’re going to have to rely on third party data, you will need to review where you can spend your resources. Depending on its scope, a survey can be quite costly, while analysing a great deal of third-party data can be time-consuming.

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Start at the end

You need to decide what angle you want to go for. Mock up those headline goals and think of how you’re going to execute the strategy to get you there. As with any PR campaign, you need to be working with a strong angle to gain the coverage that you need. Often the headline will determine what kind of data source you will need to use, and the kinds of data that you should be looking for - although this doesn’t mean you should fall into the trap of ‘confirmation bias’ .

Stay on target

If you don’t refine the scope of your data campaign, you can risk spending too long looking at superfluous details and not concentrating on the core concept that is going to earn you coverage. When building and developing your strategy, consistently check whether it answers and justifies the ‘four whys’. It’s as simple as it sounds; can it get through four rounds of ‘why are we doing this?’ If not, then re-think the strategy.

Once you can successfully justify why, move through the how. The strategy should explicitly lay out how you will conduct the research and show results with this campaign. If the strategy fails to show how, then re-think your core concept.

How will you tell the brand story?

The campaign as a whole should be thought of as a story, with each element helping you tell the tale as you go. The best stories out there are the ones that grip the reader every step of the way - your campaign should do the same, with the brand as the main character. And just as the main character isn’t in every sentence of a book, the brand doesn’t need to be conspicuous in every element of your campaign.

How you give form to your data is almost as important as the data itself. Think about how you want the public to interact with your story – will it just be a press release? Can you visualise it in a unique way? Can it be placed on a map? It’s likely that the kind of data that you’re pulling is going to give you a good indication of the best way to present it on your website, but it’s important that you make the data clear and easy to understand.

Using the right data sources.

Each data source has its own opportunities and drawbacks, and some can be used in tandem with one another to create a strong news piece. Which method is right for you depends on the end goal and what results you’re aiming for with your campaign.

Google Analytics

While Google Analytics is obviously an indispensable tool for SEO purposes, it’s also a rich vein for mining data that can be used for news stories. If you’re clever enough with how you pull the data, you can potentially create press-friendly headlines without much effort. Analytics stories will invariably come from traffic data to different sections of your site. Look at which products are getting the most traffic and look at their demographic splits. Region is generally a good angle to go for as it can present you with both regional and national stories.

For example, say you’re a company that sells tea. You have different pages for all your products – Earl Grey, oolong, green tea and so on. Upon checking your Analytics account you discover that there are more people that visit the Earl Grey page from Liverpool than any other region. Right there you have the basis of a story – Liverpudlians are crazy for Earl Grey!

One thing to bear in mind when it comes to looking at location trends is that the data needs to be weighted in relation to that region’s population. This will give you a more accurate result that will ensure that large cities like London don’t dominate your statistics.

It’s always a good idea to have an angle in mind before delving into the reams of stats Analytics presents, otherwise you could spend hours looking and end up with nothing useful. Think about which products would be interesting to talk about and what demographic splits you should be looking at.


When used correctly, surveys are an effective way of creating a great newsworthy story. The beauty of a survey is that it gives you the opportunity to source unique and robust data that can make for strong news stories that the press will cover. However, journalists are often saturated with surveys all day long, so yours needs to be the one that stands out from the crowd.

When you’re thinking of ideas for your survey, you need to start with the hypothesis. What are you trying to prove or disprove? The best surveys tend to hinge on asking a really great question, such as “Are tea drinkers better at driving?” or “How many cups of tea does the British public drink in their lifetime?” Once you have your hypothesis, draft up a couple of questions and run a straw poll with people in your office. With this method, you will quickly find out if your survey has legs.

One important thing you should note is that all of your questions should be written with a headline in mind. By doing this, you’re hedging your bets just in case a few questions don’t present the results that you wanted. If your survey is strong enough, you will almost always get some good newsworthy stats that you can shout about.

When analysing your data, make sure that you check absolutely every angle. This means looking at all of your demographic splits in detail to fish out anything interesting that could add to your story. Remember that big percentages don’t necessarily make for a good story; sometimes great angles can be found from looking at the smaller figures – even down to the 10% mark. Finding out that 30% of tea drinker’s drive red cars isn’t as interesting as 1 in 10 coffee drinkers have been arrested for speeding.

In-house data

Your own company’s data can be a goldmine for press stories, not least because it’s unique to you. With surveys, you sometimes run the risk of duplicating work or someone else running a similar story at the same time, but with your own data there is less of an issue.

Customer data is always a good starting point for pulling those all-important news angles. Anonymous sales statistics can offer an insight into industry trends – all it takes is a little digging. Every company will have a different method of capturing data, but we are assuming at this point that you have access to basic customer demographics such as gender and the region in which they live, and that you can collate data from a number of given timeframes.

Let’s once again take the tea shop example to look at the data we can glean from customer sales. For starters, we can check to see what the best-selling kind of tea was over the last year. Was 2015 the year of green tea? Why might that be? Right there you have the basis for a good story. Likewise, you can check product seasonality. Sometimes this might be obvious, such as if you’re working in the fashion or travel industries, but for other kinds of brands you might discover some trends that stick out. You might check your tea data for the past few years and find out that long sales almost always peak in January, meaning that you could make a prediction that January will see an increase in the sales of oolong tea. This is another good angle that takes little effort to find.

Again, the quality of your stories will depend on the kind of data you have at your disposal and often what format that data comes in. However, if you’re looking for a low budget way of creating a story, this is a good one.

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Government data

This is the double-edged sword of datasets. On the one hand, government data is trustworthy, robust and often exhaustive, making it perfect for journalists to use. In contrast, this data is accessible to everyone and if it’s good, journalists will usually be using it already. This is why you have to get creative with the stats.

Synthesis is key when it comes to public data. This is where you’re cross-referencing different datasets to create something new and, hopefully, worthy of a headline. Let’s illustrate a simple way that data can be synthesised effectively. The UK’s Department for Transport offers an anonymised dataset looking at MOT pass rates. While this is interesting in itself, it suddenly becomes more intriguing as a story when you find data elsewhere that shows the average cost of an MOT. By combining these two datasets, you can feasibly discover how much money the nation has lost in MOT failures. Now you can draw out your headline, for example: “The UK loses £2.6bn on failed MOTs per year”. Simple, but very effective.

There are some considerations, however. Government data is generally released in batches, sometimes quarterly, sometimes annually, which means that your data is going to be at its most newsworthy when that fresh data hits, which could be another six months from now. If it’s out of date, then it’s much less desirable for the press.

If you’re in the UK, the website is a treasure trove for public data. If the dataset doesn’t exist or you’re wondering when the next batch is being released, you can easily pick up the phone and someone will be there to answer your questions.

How to create a compelling story

After you’ve formed your strategy and gathered your data, it’s time to analyse. You may feel overwhelmed by the data you’ve collected and unsure of how to create a story. Don’t be, you should already be halfway there. Once you get into the process of analysing, it comes naturally and you’ll start to get to grips with investigating and pulling together potential angles. Take it one step at a time and consider these key points to help you foster the process of creating great, compelling stories.

Refer back to your original strategy

It’s key throughout the entire process that you refer back to your original strategy mainly to ensure it doesn’t go off on a tangent and that you’re considering your initial goal. Don’t expect that your story will take exactly the same angle as the one you had in mind - it should have some correlations, but you have to remember that when you’re working with data, you could be working with interchangeable opinions or shock statistics. Use your strategy to help structure your story and refine it. Don’t panic if it doesn’t match up entirely, it just needs to link together.

Think about your target audience and journalists

Always have this in the back of your mind. Consider what your target consumer wants and what those specific journalists write. We can’t stress how important it is to research and know where you’re aiming to get a story placed. It will help you craft and define your direction. Research and get a feel for typical headlines first off - it will help streamline the process.

Get your workings out on paper

It’s important to write everything down as you go along. If you’re working specifically with survey data, go through it with a simple bullet point process. Open up a document and go through each question, bullet point each stat that you think is worthwhile taking a look at and start creating the story in basic sentences. If you’ve gathered data from other sources or your own data set, get them written down similarly to if you were analysing a survey. Using existing data to shape new ideas and create new data? Write down your workings out, it will make it much easier in the long run and will be easier for you to justify if anyone asks.

Analyse the negatives

The press love a negative. Controversy and negativity sell. Don’t be afraid to explore your options with negativity, push your boundaries and use them to your advantage. We are not suggesting that you do something ridiculously controversial to your brand - whoever said all PR is good PR was lying - however, drawing on simple negatives from data can help you get a story placed. Working on a piece about personal finance? What are the public doing with their money that isn’t great? Use it to your gain, and spin it into a positive. How can you change this and solve the problem?

Highlight stats that could work as headlines

Once you’ve got all your ideas, thoughts and data written down, go through them and highlight any stats that will make a great story. It can be quite a tough process to choose a specific headline and you may find more than one angle when sifting through.

Always have the type of publications you want to target in the back of your mind. Don’t feel that you need to have your headlines all figured out at this stage, a feel for the angles is what you’re after. After all, you can’t create a story without an angle.

Make your stats bigger

This isn’t a cue to lie about your results, it’s a cue to make them sound bigger. For example, you have a stat that quotes ‘5% of people expect to live on inheritance as a pensioner’, change that to ‘1 in 20 people expect to live on inheritance’ and it sounds a much bigger issue. Remember people are going to read your story and journalists are going to want a pitch. They’ll want it as consumer-friendly as possible and bigger looking data is going to get your angle noticed.

Refine your story

Ask yourself these questions. Are you solving a problem? Communicating values? Creating speculation? Choose a focus depending on your story. You need to be offering something valid for your story to get noticed. Once you have all of your data, you’ve got an idea of a specific angle or angles, think about this process and instil it in your story. Storytelling in key to creating compelling media-led reports.

Create something bigger than just a release

You’ve got a great data-led story to tell and a press release to go with it, but is there more you can create? This should be considered during the strategy process and then revisited during analysis. Can you provide case studies, tools, useful imagery, and a reason for users to visit your site? It doesn’t always have to be complex. Your data is a fantastic news hook, but offering something which solidly complements your story is going to place you in a better position and contribute further to core marketing objectives, especially if you can get a link back and improve engagement with content on site.

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The Output

Now you’ve got your story, it’s time to think about how you’re going to sell it. Selling was never made to be easy and it’s exactly why we’re trained to do PR. Creating stories that people are going to be interested in is one thing, but selling that story to somebody else (in this case, somebody whose phone is constantly ringing with people trying to do the same), is something else. You have to remember that journalists are very busy people, with hundreds of PRs contacting them daily, so you have a small window in which to grab their attention.

You need to make sure that you do your research. It isn’t feasible to target every journalist and, no matter how good your story is, it isn’t going to appeal to every journalist. You need to know who you’re targeting, otherwise you’re wasting your time. Seek out journalists that are writing about stories similar to yours - it stands to reason that those journalists will also find your story interesting to their audiences.

Approach these journalists with targeted and personalised emails. Mail merge, BCC and syndication wires alone don’t cut it here and the personal touch can make a massive difference when pitching your story. Remember that journalists are just people and good, friendly communication skills will make you stand out from the crowd

Use the subject line as your opportunity to show off your story. It’s the first thing that the recipient will see so make sure that you make an impact. Try and keep the pitch itself to just three lines. No matter how hard it is, short and snappy is always favourable on the first contact. If you can offer an exclusive, do it. Case studies, infographics and images are also a great way to grab a journalists attention and earn yourself those additional column inches.

If you’re selling your story to regionals, put a regional twist on the story. A journalist in Manchester is unlikely to be interested in a story about people in Glasgow, and a journalist in Glasgow is unlikely to be interested if their city ranks in the middle of your table. And whatever you do, don’t second guess yourself. Be very direct in your email and tell them where you think your story fits in their publication.

Putting it into practice: A case study for

Data driven PR would be at the heart of our campaign for, where we would test the knowledge of the Great British public to see how ‘smart’ they actually were. was all about ‘smarter search’ and, with that core brand value in mind, we would set about earning coverage that was all about helping people to think smarter not only about their next car purchase, but about motoring in general.

The aim was clear, to generate coverage that would intergrate with a wider digital marketing strategy and support brand recognition and search engine optimisation efforts through high quality coverage and refferals. To achieve this, we knew that any idea would also need to have plenty of longevity, being a catalyst for ongoing content marketing ideas and concepts. Of course, all of this content would also have to strike a chord with the target audience, and reflect the brand’s core values.

We challenged the UK public to see whether they could still pass the standard DSA driving theory test, as undertaken by candidates in 2015. Presenting users with 15 of the toughest questions currently posed to test candidates, we wanted to know how much (or how little) knowledge British drivers had retained since they originally passed their theory exam or got their driving licence. From road signs to stopping distances, we would see just how much Britain’s drivers actually knew about the Highway Code.

In total, more than 45,000 people took the test, whilst the survey and content generated more than 49,141 social media engagements. We were able to determine that, based on our survey, as many as 95% of British drivers would fail their theory test. We were able to break this data down further by region, by gender and by age range to provide a wide range of stories and angles for the media to cover. This ensuring that as many demographics and geographical areas were represented in our coverage as was possible.

The campaign earned significant levels of high authority coverage, including print coverage in the motoring supplement of The Sunday Times. Online coverage was secured on The Times, Sun Motors, The Irish Independent,, Hastings Direct, Yahoo Motoring and The campaign was also one of the highest rated articles in for a period, and was heavily featured on

All of these publications contributed to significant audience reach and, with high quality domains referring to the campaign, this activity would be hugely beneficial to our wider search engine optimisation campaign. In total, earned media coverage delivered around 2,800 unique visitors in the first three weeks of the campaign.


By now you will realise that data can play a key role in your overall PR campaign. But, as with any marketing work, your strategy needs to be robust if you want to reap the benefits of a data-led campaign. In this whitepaper, we have looked at how to prepare your strategy through reviewing relevant data sources that will tell an effective brand story. We’ve run through different types of data-sets and their uses and explained how data can be used to tell compelling stories that the media will love.

Finally, we went through the do’s and don’ts of selling your data story into the media so that you have the best chance of getting your story in the news. Using the advice presented here, you should have the direction to run a data-led PR campaign that’s relevant to your brand and offers an interesting and engaging angle for the press.

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