Why data-focused specialists are the future of PR

As someone who has spent half of their career in journalism, one thing I have observed is the increasing importance of how the information is presented. There is so much news going around these days that people generally don’t have enough time to read it all. One of the signs of this change is how the audience has mostly moved from reading articles on media websites to skimming over brief posts in social networks.

Keep it simple

The simpler the main points in the post, the higher the chances that the user will stop to look through it. And if they do, it also makes it more likely that they will follow the link to the website to read the full thing. Simply writing a quality piece is no longer enough.

This has resulted in the development of a kind of “clickable mentality” amongst journalists and a race for readers’ attention. As part of the wider strategy to attract said attention, a new branch of journalism is steadily developing. Specifically, data journalism that puts greater emphasis on numerical data, graphs, and figures.

Evolution of data news

Strictly speaking, this is not something new. Data has always been provided in articles before. But back then it used to come from experts and fulfilled the role of visual proof of what the material was talking about. Now we are witnessing a new trend, where data-oriented materials become a separate direction in their own right. And journalists have to learn how to pull out the most interesting information for their stories themselves.

Infographics is a format that has been steadily growing in popularity for years now. The most important and interesting details are placed in a prominent position in the article. This way, the reader can immediately view them.

Growing demand

Specialists that can work with data like this are coming into greater demand. Some media even create specialised departments that aggregate and analyse information that can be useful in their materials. Data teams of media like Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal are among many such examples.

The popularity of this news format is affected by a number of factors:

• greater interest from a reader - information is easier to process when it has visuals

• the greater weight of an individual article which results in better indexing of said media’s materials in search engines

• interactive data serves a recreational purpose - a reader can engage with the article by scrolling around to see more information.

Data journalism and PR

As data journalism gains traction, it is also beginning to affect the field of public relations. It is important for PR specialists to keep track of changes that take place in the information consumption market. Demand creates supply, after all. And with the growing trend for data-filled materials, PR managers now have to expand their toolkit to include infographics.

It requires that they take a more in-depth look at what types of stories a specific journalist writes, and adjust their pitches accordingly. If necessary, they need to be able to give materials with pre-prepared graphics/figures provided by their client companies.

In order to do their job effectively, PR specialists need to communicate in the same language as journalists. And journalists today communicate in the language of data. As such, data has never been more important to public relations professionals. In the not-too-distant future I expect that the profession of “Data PR-manager” will come to the fore.

Written by Mary Poliakova, PR consultant and co-founder of agency Drofa Comms

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