A set of ever-changing responsibilities have prompted PR professionals to begin thinking more like marketers. Marketing departments have historically operated independently from their PR counterparts as the dominant business function, analyzing and interpreting data, while PR focused on supporting and enhancing marketing functions. But the lines between marketing and PR have blurred as new forms of measurement, like share of voice, have pushed their way to the forefront of determining business success.

What’s more, the increased interconnectivity of consumers and brands across the globe has caused the expansion or adoption of PR teams to keep businesses relevant amid all of the noise. This gives PR professionals new responsibilities like tracking metrics and measuring success: a job previously reserved for marketers.

Getting Comfortable With Data

Analyzing data is increasingly important in a digital world where the data continues to become all the more centric. A survey by Talend, a global leader in data integration and integrity, found that over two-thirds of business leaders use data each day, but 78% of respondents report challenges in implementation. Companies have seen greater access to data without a way to make sense of it. That’s where PR comes in.

It’s important to leverage data to yield media coverage, identify trending topics and position stories with intriguing angles. Data pulled from trends aids in message alignment for your client’s target audience and provides a positive public sentiment about their business. Not only does data allow you to make better, more informed decisions for your clients, but it aids with presenting stronger growth, success and challenges. More so, data collected and shared with your clients heightens your expertise in the industry and bolsters your portfolio as a seasoned PR professional.

Measuring Impact

Marketers previously took hold of traditional metrics that PR provided, like advertising value equivalents, and packaged them nicely for c-suite executives to better understand what their marketing dollars covered. Traditional metrics make it easy for marketers to take a conversion, transform it into a compelling visual and present it to executives.

What traditional metrics fail to discuss is the quality of media over its quantity, which is why the industry has shifted away from traditional measurements to better align with companies’ desire for data-driven insights. Executives are now concerned with the details of a piece of coverage–such as sentiment, key messaging, spokesperson appearance, tone and so on–and are turning to PR professionals to decipher the meaning.

Because there is no longer a consistent method of measurement across companies and industries, teams must define their own benchmarks. This allows PR teams to get creative with their metrics and devise solutions that work uniquely for their clients. Measuring impact is a large feat, but creating your own method based on unique business goals will garner continuous results for your client, which gives your team a greater range to do more specialized work down the road.

Making Meaning From Data

“The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor,” said Jonathan Haidt, author, social psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. 

Tamara Bell, the founder of Two Bells Media and a lecturer in both the School of Advertising & Public Relations and School of Journalism and Media at The University of Texas at Austin, shared with Treble how PR professionals should strive to present meaningful data to clients.

“Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C brand, people want to do business with who they know, like and trust. And yes, data and analytics can certainly persuade people looking to work with, invest in or buy from successful brands. But for people to really know, like and trust you, they have to know who you are. Your ‘why.’ Your story. 

This goes beyond a brand’s ‘about me’ story. For example, let’s say that 25% of a startup company’s employees are female and 15% were first-generation college students. The company proudly displays those stats on its DEI page. But to really have those numbers resonate with their audience, they need to tell the employees’ stories on their website, on social media and in pitches to journalists. If you’re only focused on numbers, someone else’s will always be more impressive. What they won’t have is your unique — your extraordinary — story.” 

Recognizing that data is important in the work done for clients is the first step to help them reach their goals and for you to grow your knowledge in the industry. Learn to embrace data as a PR professional and let it help drive your decisions and strategies for your clients.