Using data and research to inform narratives, targets, storylines and more is a way of PR life that should guide each decision made in the pitching journey.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t take a 1,000 mile cross-country road trip without plugging the final address into your Google Maps app, would you? If you did, you’d end up with a not-so-straight path wasting time and money, and would receive little in return compared to your input.

Similarly, pitches that rely on intuition and not dedicated plots on a pitching path can lead PR professionals astray and result in cyclical inefficiencies. Methods should be adjusted to needs and interests of your audience (or passengers – hey, it’s prime road trip season, so food for thought!).

Incorporating 30 minutes of daily mind-feeding

Intertwining data-focused considerations into our daily routines is imperative if we expect to build the right pitch for the right reporter with the right (and most compelling) data. Many of us are, quite frankly, frustrated by the redundancy of brainstorming sessions  – the result of a mental pantry stocked with the same dinner choices, day after day, week after week. Add some spice to your pitching life by “restocking” your mental pantry. Resources like Feedly can help you explore blogs from various industries and expose you to new concepts and fresh ideas. Find the ingredients, and actually make use of them!

Coupled with a vast arsenal of tools for finding the best, most relevant data for your pitching needs, making a concentrated effort to expand your knowledge on specific or general topics will open up many more media doors. Fortunately for the data-minded among us, there are many resources available to PR professionals that answer the all-important “what happened” and “why did it happen” questions. So, what are your options?

“What” data

“What” data are the numbers that concretely show what happened, as explained by first-party data directly from the source, or third-party data from non-client sources such as the U.S. government, industry reports and scholarly studies. Examples of where to track down the “what” data are client-housed data sets (Google Analytics, customer wins, overall growth), social media analytics platforms,, FRED or Statista.

“Why” data

“Why” data explains the reasons behind the “what” numbers. If a customer won 10 clients last year, why did that occur? If the number of solar-powered facilities went up in the last five years, what drove that increase?

While “what” data is typically numerical, “why” is usually qualitative in the form of words.

Google Scholar, Google Consumer Surveys and Pew Research Center are all great resources that offer explanations to the many “what” numbers you uncovered first.

Eight steps to success

Following an eight-step, repeatable process helps us find information, prove or disprove ideas and backup our conclusions with proof.

  1. Question – What’s something we want to find out that may support a client’s core messaging or key differentiators? Dream big here, folks! And don’t be afraid to get specific.
  2. Define – Identify the data you’ll need to whip up a great pitch. If the question has enough detail to start with, pinpointing the data needed will surface quickly.
  3. Predict – Making a prediction (in true-or-false format) is important because it helps you understand and focus the data you’re gathering. Don’t get caught in a preemptive urge to build the headline that’s not yet proven.
  4. Gather – Do you need to know what happened or why something happened? Do you need numerical data or qualitative? Chances are good you’ll need both, so gather the “what” before the “why.”
  5. Analyze – Data by itself is useless, and analysis helps us uncover the meaning behind the data. Go visual with the data to make it easier to digest.
  6. Refine – Now, give it more meaning. Remove what doesn’t serve your intentions, and expand on the more compelling parts. Explain, explain, explain, and add more complex visualizations for the actual pitch.
  7. Build – It’s headline time! Give your audience (a.k.a. reporters) what they want, and tell the story of the insights you’ve uncovered. A narrative structure delivers the story in a digestible format driven by the data.
  8. Pitch – All that’s left is to conduct outreach to the most relevant reporters that may be interested in the story you have to share.

And repeat! Using a data-driven approach to the pitching process will bring greater accountability and coverage results (or feedback from reporters) versus relying on intuition or experience as your North Star. Data first!

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