Can you do PR by numbers?

Last week we ran a session that looked at whether we’ve reached the stage where you can now do PR by numbers.

My thanks goes to our host and partner for the evening, Kantar Media.

To put the event into some context, the digitalisation of the media and the rise of social media, combined with the widening of public relations as a discipline from its near obsession with media relations during the 1990’s, has meant that there is more data available to PR people. Both as a planning tool and as a campaign review tool.

Within this context we asked whether we've reached the stage that PR can now be done just on data sets and numbers or whether PR planning still comes from the gut – perhaps a sixth sense and timing!

See some thoughts from our speakers in the video below:

Can you do PR by numbers? from PRmoment on Vimeo.

Our first speaker was Colin Byrne, CEO UK and EMEA, Weber Shandwick.

Colin kicked things off with a few stats that emphasised the data explosion that we’ve seen in recent years:

  • Every two days we produce as much information as had been created between the dawn of time and 2003 (Google)
  • KPMG reckons the total volume of business data in the world increased by 30% between 2010 and 2011. (KPMG)

Colin saw a relationship between the use of data as an insight tool and creativity and summed things up nicely with the observation that, “Creative objectives should be measurable…..but ‘numbers’ alone are nothing without creativity.”

Next up, Kantar Media’s Anna Salter talked us through the practicalities of the PR’s dual requirement for data:

  • Proving the business worth of your campaign
  • Using data and influencer mapping as a planning tool

In terms of evaluation, a campaign's data allows you to understand the relationship between the level of exposure to the message and the propensity to purchase, broken down by the influence of the various areas of the social and mainstream media channels.

Anna acknowledged data as a key insight tool to identify relevant influencers while also establishing the value of PR as part of an integrated marketing communications approach.

Within a planning context, it seems that the importance of expert analysis and insight can add a lot of value. For example, Anna talked through a case study where the correlation between mainstream media and earned mentions appeared to have very little correlation to each other, however when a 4 month time lapse was introduced, there was a very strong correlation (R.077.) Suggesting, that social media coverage from influencers drove mainstream media coverage, albeit with a four month delay!

Jessica Brookes from Avanade talked us through how a scientific approach to public relations is now vital, especially in this age of integration within the marketing communication mix. Insight data provides public relations professionals with the opportunity to understand the touch points, behaviour and content tastes of their customers. With this information you can then create integrated cross channel campaigns to reach your target audience with relevant content.

Customer influencers along the buying journey for Avanade

We then moved on to a panel debate discussing whether public relations is an art or a science. I thought EE’s Howard Jones summed things up nicely by saying:

“PROs cannot claim to be artists because we don’t have that much abstract creativity in our work and neither can we claim to be scientists, we are not working in the field of theory in the true scientific sense. The reality is that PR is on a spectrum and PR people need to take maths and science in the form of data and combine these with art in the form of ideas in order to tell compelling stories.”

Thanks to all our speakers for their time and to our event partners, Kantar Media.

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