Data-driven campaigns are a huge success in the world of digital PR, but where do you even start?
Knowing where to source data for your story can be tricky, and accessing it can be even harder. That’s why we’ve compiled a guide to finding data, accessing it, AND how to use this data once you have it.
If you’re working in the SEO industry then you may already have access to sites such as Ahrefs and SEMRush. These tools can be utilised for digital PR by looking at the average monthly search volumes for your chosen keywords, as well as including any increases or drops that journalists might be interested in.
Keyword tools like these also provide you with related questions, which can be an easy starting point for your story, whilst also giving you the chance to answer questions journalists are asking.
Similarly, Google Trends is a free online tool that allows you to see trending searches on Google in real time. It also has up to five years worth of data so there’s HUGE potential for you to create a story with trending searches. Simply scroll the real-time trends or type in your chosen topic and take a look at all the data Google Trends has on offer.
We’d also recommend downloading Glimpse for Google Trends. Acting as a Chrome extension, install Glimpse to see actual search volumes, trend trajectories and even longtail searches of related topics.
Surveys are our Senior Digital PR Manager, Mary Hickey’s favourite source of data for campaigns at NORTH. Whether you create your own survey with The Leadership Factor (TLF) or Censuswide, or find existing results online through YouGov, surveys can provide great insight into what the public is thinking about any topic.
We’ve created surveys about fast fashion, summer holidays, festivals, and whether or not dogs in the UK are taking up the bed every night.
Simply enquire through one of the survey websites, making sure you select a large number of respondents (over 1000) so that your data represents the whole region you’re analysing, then ask away.
Companies like TLF give you your results with different demographic splits, usually including age, gender, cities and regions, so that your data is already segmented ready to have different angles for your story.
Some examples of information collected by PR’s and journalists using the Freedom of Information act include MP’s expenses, immigration figures, restaurant hygiene, average salary data, and baby names by popularity, city and year (cue the Most Popular Baby Names of 2022 campaigns).
Before requesting any information, make sure it’s not already on the authority’s website and that the authority you’re requesting from is the appropriate place to ask.
make the request in writing, for example in a letter or an email. You can make a verbal or written request for environmental information;
give your real name; and
give an address to which the authority can reply. This can be a postal or email address.
You donot have to:
mention the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations, although it may help to do so;
know whether the information is covered by the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations; or
say why you want the information.
You may be charged for requesting this information if, for example, you require the data to be printed and delivered to you, these are called ‘disbursements’.
Web Scraping and APIs
Web scraping is the process of using bots to extract content and data from a website by taking the underlying HTML code and any data stored along with it. Examples of data collected from web scraping include finding how many followers celebrities may have, social media sentiment or even for your own competitor research.
You can use Excel to scrape websites by using the Data->From Web-> function. But bear in mind, the site you’re pulling from needs to have a static data table present on the page. But if you need to scrape large amounts of data then consider using scraping tools online, or using APIs.
Application Programming Interfaces a.k.a APIs, according to HubSpot, provide a secure and standardised way for applications to work with each other and deliver the information or functionality requested without user intervention.
In digital PR, we can use APIs to scrape tons of data from social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Youtube, and the best thing yet is that most social media platforms have APIs already available for you to start collecting data.
For example, we collected tweet sentiments from Twitter’s API (you can only collect the last 7 days’ worth of tweets so plan ahead!) to discover how people were feeling about the Christmas season.
Some tools have been made so that you don’t have to analyse the data yourself and make data storytelling much easier, quicker and cheaper. For example, The Playlist Miner aggregates the top tracks from the most popular public playlists on Spotify that match your search criteria. We used this tool in a campaign for Bensons for Beds to find the best sounds to sleep to.
Recently, we worked on a campaign to find the best location to watch the sunset in the UK, based on people’s own experiences. We decided to use Tripadvisor’s API to download every review for places listed under “Things to do” that included the word sunset and rank how many times the word sunset was said for each location.
There are thousands of publicly available datasets on the internet, which provide a ton of information at the touch of a button. Whether you’re just looking to have a nosey round, or don’t know where to get started, this list of public datasets may inspire your data collection.
We recently used a few different datasets in a campaign for one of our clients to find the most relaxing cities in the UK. This included wellness indicators and green space information from ONS, road noise pollution from Government sites and the average number of hours of sunshine from the Met Office. You never know what you might find on these websites, they’re a gold mine for data-led stories so get looking!
Your own website data
An underused way of creating a story, you can use product sales, searches, Google Analytics data and more from your own website. Whether you’ve come across some interesting figures in your monthly reports, or you’re seeing a new trend come about, you can use your own website’s data for PR purposes.
You’ll have access to data that others won’t and be able to create unique stories perfect for your website, making it ideal for building links for SEO value. The best bit yet – it’s usually cheaper (or free) than secondary data.
Try out some of these easy to access sites and datasets next time you’re working on your digital PR campaign. If you’re looking for a hand or just want to learn what digital PR is all about, browse our digital PR services or get in touch!