Think like a journalist: how to use data to become a resource and achieve results

Jul 17, 2014
Think like a journalist: how to use data to become a resource and achieve results

Years ago, a wise mentor told me, “If you want to build a good relationship with a journalist, then you have to think like a journalist.”

Sage advice that still holds true today. However, in an age of social conversations, the mindset of the journalist includes fast paced technology, much tighter deadlines, more competition for breaking news and using data for great storytelling.

How Much Should You Know About Data?

You should know enough about data to be a better resource for your journalist friends. Journalists need expert sources and offering them the data that helps to garner deeper insights about your market or customer’s behavior is a great way to get their attention. Today’s PR pro should be able to capture, filter, analyze and draw insights from data, which results in building stronger relationships.  

Here are four easy ways for PR pros to increase their use of data to become better resources:

1. Achieve your Goals By Selecting the Right Tools. When selecting the tools to gather and filter data, you need to look for a resource that helps you achieve your goals. For example, are you looking for a tool that collects data on particular social community for a more narrow view of your audience or do you need to capture data across several social communities for a broader view?  Do you require a resource that provides you with sentiment analysis to determine whether conversations in aggregate are positive, negative or neutral? What about the free vs. paid tools, due and any budgetary constraints? These are all important points to evaluate when you are embarking on data collection and then using the information gleaned to draw insights.

2. Share Insights on Important Market Trends. Big data is an overused and scary term, so let’s just focus on smart data. When you’re able to use social media monitoring tools and technology platforms to filter data and then analyze the information over time, you can offer an in-depth perspective on the market, as well as important trends, all based on your customer’s behavior. Sharing these insights demonstrates thought leadership and knowledge that may lead to more interview opportunities and expert commentary.

3. Use Data to Pitch Interesting Story Angles. Using your social listening tools to hone in on interesting, real-time conversations can lead to great story ideas that are relevant and timely. One of my favorite examples during the 2012 holiday season was “The Nicest Person in Social Media.” Kingsford Charcoal worked with the Sysomos engineering team to develop a script that identified people who tweeted the words “please,” thank you” and “thanks” most frequently. They deemed a Waukesha, Wisconsin resident, IT professional and grilling enthusiast as 2012’s “Nicest Person in Social Media.” Big data allowed Kingsford to create awareness at time when people think of “coal” for a different purpose.

4. Learn More About Data by Going the Extra Mile. To learn more you have to read, listen to podcasts and participate in your association and/or industry events more than in the past. You may even want to register for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on big data. In addition, there are bloggers who focus on data and analytics. By joining their communities and listening to the conversations, you will quickly advance your knowledge. Because businesses rely on data today and so do the media reporting their stories, it’s time to take the extra step to become more familiar and comfortable with your use of data.  

What it Means to Dig Deeper into Data

When it comes building relationships, the communication pros that dig deeper into data and investigate below the surface to uncover relevant topics, trends, and behaviors will be seen as the professionals who have a greater depth of knowledge and understanding. Not only will they stand out in the journalist’s mind but they will also become a “go-to” resource. When you can dig deeper with data, your relationships with journalists will advance to a new level. 

Deirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications. She is an international speaker, blogger, and an adjunct professor at NYU and UMASS at Amherst. Her most recent book published by FT Press is Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional

Photo: Tablet via Shutterstock

About the author

CEO of Pure Performance Communications, author, speaker and adjunct professor.

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