Despite the relative maturity of the modern communicator, some practitioners are yet to truly realise that PR can and should have the capacity to contribute strategically to the organisation more broadly. This underlines the need for PR teams to take a data-driven approach to the iterative process of planning, measuring and evaluating communications.
Why? When communications planning is informed by data and insights, you tell a more compelling narrative both internally and externally. It helps to improve future campaigns, build high-quality content, enhance messaging and outperform competitors. Yet it is often easier said than done; many firms find it challenging to optimise the use of media intelligence data for driving business decisions.
Start with asking yourself what you want to find out.
Have clarity on this so you’re set up to measure the right data from the get-go. Focus in on the stories you want to tell, the opportunities that drive customer action and the insights that will make a real difference to the way you work. Then set your measurement framework in a way that is focused on finding those insights. Constructing a hypothesis can be a great way stay focused on a specific insight you want to derive.
If you are just measuring metrics like Share of Voice (SoV), media mentions and coverage volume, there’s a limit to how far you can use those data to guide decision making. If you only count activity, you’ll only measure activity and, ultimately, you’ll end up planning against activity, not strategy. So, ask yourself; ‘how can you utilise better data to shape your communications strategy?’
Here are our four tips on how to use media data to inform your communications strategy:
1. Monitor and measure your PR performance
As a minimum, measurement of your media data can give you insights about how your PR activities are performing, what’s working and what’s not, how this stacks up against your higher-level communications and business goals.
Instead of measuring quantitative outputs, try to layer them with qualitative and targeted metrics for deeper insights. Find out which messages are successfully delivered and land best, which are driving positive coverage, which account for most negativity – how are these linked to the outcomes – what your audience are now doing as a result? Are there topics that have not yet been fully realised and what does this mean for your future planning? Monitoring and measuring your PR performance can help to identify gaps and challenges in messaging and guide you in developing a campaign around it.
If you are new to measurement, watch this on-demand webinar to get yourself started with setting up a framework to measure and evaluate your PR efforts.
2. Understand your target audience
Harness the power of social media to help you understand your target audience. What are they saying about your brand and your products versus your competitors’? Are your messages resonating? Which types of content are more popular?
Are they engaging more with product content or stories with human presence? Consider breaking down your audience to get more granular and contextual. Speak to your media intelligence partner about setting up keyword tracking to understand any changes in consumer behaviour on social media so you can create content that will resonate and boost engagement amongst them. Focus your comms efforts on what will achieve the best results with your audience.
And when it comes to your audience – don’t forget – everything has changed over the course of the pandemic. What they think, what they consume, what they do, who they are influenced by and what matters to them – keep your audience analysis up-to-date and ensure you truly know the people you speak to engage with.
3. Gain competitor intelligence
Any high-performing communications programme should begin with a comprehensive audit of competitor activity to identify key opportunities and strategic gaps. Tracking of competitors’ activities, social conversations, and media coverage provides insights into competitor strategies that can help you differentiate or get ahead of any emerging trends.
In our recent Trust in COVID-19 Vaccines report, we studied the media coverage on the various vaccine manufacturers to look at how each of them fares in terms of brand trust and sentiments.
The sorts of insights featured in this reports are ideal examples of the ways in which organisations can focus in on the competitor landscape and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; helping PR pros like you to leverage the insights to inform tactics and strategy.
4. Spot trends and identify opportunities
Staying on top of the topics important to your brand can reveal where the market is headed and where you fit in. Keep a close watch on what’s happening within your industry, and in some cases, supporting or complementary industries too, without cluttering with irrelevant news. A combination of monitoring traditional media, understanding what your audience are talking about on social media and investigating search trends could surface thematic areas for campaign consideration, point out gaps in the market and present unique opportunities.
SAS demonstrated a smart use of media intelligence as part of its COVID-19 crisis response. The team monitoried the type of conversations driven by the pandemic, which has helped them identify an opportunity to support their customers during COVID-19. It also led to the successful re-invention of the SAS Global Forum as a virtual event with a new theme focused on the trending topics at the peak of the pandemic. Check out this on-demand webinar to get the full picture on how SAS made use of insights to adjust strategy and reset goals
Despite the tremendous use of data, context is everything, and analysing the data alongside other metrics can give you more holistic and accurate insights. This is where human analysis is necessary in some cases to make sense of the data. For many industries and many markets, sociopolitical understanding and on-thr-ground context are crucial in truly understanding what matters to your PR and Comms activity, your audience, and your organisation.
Data can and should go beyond informing PR and Comms reporting or decision-making. Media intelligence is business intelligence and can touch every corner of your organisation and provide tangible insights that can be applied across the business to drive it forward. Remember – be clear of your goals, monitor and measure both broadly and specifically, understand your audience, keep your friends close and your enemies closer, identify opportunities – and demonstrate the value of PR.