Ruchika Jha
Corporate Communications and PR

Exploring data integration in PR strategies: Focussing and using relevant data

Industry experts deliberate on the role of data in measuring PR success, the need for data literacy, and more.

In today's world, data is everywhere, and brands are making the most of it. Digital and social media have become a hub of real-time conversations that brands track closely to stay connected with their audience. Meanwhile, traditional media remains relevant, now with online versions of newspapers added to the mix.

Utilising big data enables the monitoring of social media, news articles, and various sources for brand or client mentions. This makes it instrumental in identifying trends, influencers, and assessing the impact of PR campaigns.

But with all this data flying around, there is a new challenge - figuring out how to use it all effectively. Public relations (PR) agencies are still understanding the best ways to navigate this sea of information.

The recently held afaqs! CommuniCon conference powered by Kaizzen and awards 2024 saw the PR and communication veterans discuss the significance of data usage on the topic Do PR Firms Use Data As Well As They Should - Or Could?

The panel comprised Dr Navneet Anand, founder and director of GreyMatters Communications & Consulting; Nitin Mantri, group CEO of Avian WE; Aakriti Bhargava, co-founder of Wizikey; Deepshikha Dharmaraj, chief executive officer of BCW India Group; and Smita Basu Roy, head of corporate communications at Godrej & Boyce. The session was chaired by Venkata Susmita Biswas, executive editor at afaqs!.

Biswas opened the session by asking whether PR agencies are focussing on relevant data amidst the vast amount of information available online, and if there is any clarity on how PR success is measured, if at all.

As per the experts, everybody needs data for what they do, and apart from this, insights and analysis are also becoming increasingly important.

Roy believes that there is a plethora of data and according to her, the only missing part is the ability to funnel down. She says, “At this point, we are on par with several PR agencies advocating for more effective utilisation of data, not just from a reactive measurement of success, but also as a proactive tool that carries immense potential.”

Meanwhile, Mantri states that during the planning stage, one looks at all kinds of data and not just stick with one. It needs to inform a brand or agency of the campaign that it will run. “Data can be collected from various sources like media cells, social media, and other different forums. I think the challenge that all of us face as organisations whether it is agencies or clients is that data is not cheap. One needs data to inform before they do any work,” he asserts.

The challenge in data literacy

Data literacy presents various challenges, ranging from comprehending complex data concepts and effectively communicating data insights to ensuring data quality, managing information overload, providing adequate tools and resources, understanding data privacy concerns, and overcoming resistance to data-driven decision-making.

Dharmaraj exemplified the crucial role of data by talking about Edward Bernays, an American pioneer in the field of public relations in the 1900s. She highlighted Bernays' emphasis on PR being a scientific discipline that requires an understanding of human behaviour and data to craft effective messaging and strategies.

“We do a lot of learning and development in our organisations. We have to spend time, effort, and money on bringing this literacy in and changing the mindset to data. Unfortunately, a lot of young kids get scared when they see data thinking it is maths. We need to break that mindset and say it is the power of our roles to be able to do this. PR is a very special craft and sometimes you just sort of put the data down, write a press release, put it out there, and pray to God,” she says.

Additionally, Dr. Anand emphasised the importance of human intervention in data. He added that while many people are engaged in analytics, it is the application of human intelligence and mind that truly matters; otherwise, “we are all drowned by the enormity of the data that is present.”

“I am very intrigued and excited to see the kind of data that is provided by some of the data analytics tools, but it does not always translate into actionable elements for us. Therefore, this is where human intervention comes into play,” he notes.

The advent of AI has considerably eased operations for organisations, making tasks more accessible and efficient than ever before. Looking back at the last two years in terms of utilising it, Bhargava says that the impact on the time and efficiency that a company, agency, or person will get out of using AI is phenomenal and exponential.

“In the coming future, which is not more than one year from here, software will be able to bring in other businesses' software through APIs and say it made an announcement and this is how the traffic changed. We already do that at Wizikey. The interconnectivity of data is not very far away and that is why we are fortunate to be in these times because we do not have to live in isolation of the marketing team anymore,” she conveys.

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