It isn’t easy for most tech startups to stay in the news. Sure, they have their big moments – whether it’s when they emerge from stealth, when they announce major funding rounds, or even when they launch disruptive new products. But getting coverage in between those big milestones can be tricky. It’s a big reason why startups often look toward data PR campaigns. It’s a proven tactic – done right, a data PR campaign can help make a company and its spokespeople more relevant, generate media attention and raise brand recognition. So why, then, do so many data PR campaigns fail? Here are five top reasons:
Your insights are too narrow
Sometimes it’s because the idea for a survey started with the product or sales team. Sometimes it’s because you want to be sure it conveys the company’s unique proposition. But anytime your insights are too focused on the problems your offerings solve, you run the risk that your data won’t be interesting to very many people besides your customers and prospects. This might not seem so bad, but you won’t get much interest from journalists in data stories that simply make the business cases for your products. Reporters are seeking stories that appeal to the widest audiences possible within their coverage areas, and you should too, or you won’t have very many pitch targets beyond a narrow swath of trade journalists.
You’re asking the wrong questions
A mistake that many PR teams make when creating data PR campaigns is asking questions without a strong sense of what the answers will be. A well designed data PR campaign starts with a hunch about something specific which can be proven through data. For your research to draw attention and stand out, your data should zero in on the factors that drive actions and outcomes. It’s not enough to use data to size a problem, solution, or group. Journalists are more interested in expectations and plans and actual behaviors than affinities and aggregated opinions, and whether querying datasets or running surveys, they’re looking for perspectives on what’s changing the most and what’s changing the fastest. If you’ve got a healthy media relations program already in place, one great way to make sure you’re seeking the answers journalists are looking for is to simply ask them first.
Your data is unsurprising
Although there are instances when it is useful to share insights that align with highly discussed trends, too often, PR teams often make the mistake of sharing data that does little more than confirm what journalists already know. Journalists are more likely to cover something that is the opposite of their expectation. They are looking for data that is provocative, polarizing or otherwise impossible to find. Demonstrating misalignment within businesses, showing when there’s been a major shift in opinion or group behavior, or highlighting when different segments behave very differently are all more likely to earn media attention than data that show largely unchallenged consensus.
Your data is shallow, suspect, or stale
Often due to a lack of resources, but sometimes due to a lack of process, companies make the mistake of trying to get attention for data that won’t pass muster with journalists. This is most often due to sample size or sample quality, but it can also be due to suspect methodology. Emailing customer lists using tools that aren’t designed for data analysis is one common mistake. These surveys rarely return the number of respondents journalists consider reliable, and even when they do, reporters tend to trust them less than those created by professional research firms that field representative samples and use proven, published methodologies. Even among teams that engage survey partners, a common mistake is waiting too long between data collection and publicizing the results. Journalists don’t want data from six months ago, so it’s important to have a plan in place to operationalize the results as soon as your team sees the first returns.
Your data lacks an easily consumed takeaway
You asked a bunch of smart, provocative questions, and you even carved out questions for each of your vertical markets. You’ve got plenty of insights, and maybe you’ve created an attractive and comprehensive research report. But when you present it to reporters, they don’t respond – why? It might be because there’s just too much data to comb through. While you may eventually see pickups of some of the data points you included, in order to maximize the impact of the impact of your data PR campaign, you need to make it easy for reporters to gauge its story value at a glance. Don’t lob over a bunch of stats in a PDF and expect the journalist to find the story. A press release that frames the data in context can work well, as can a blog post. Even a succinct and well-targeted pitch can be used to spell out the storyline you think is most compelling. Regardless of format, while interested journalists will certainly seek ways to make any story their own, providing a clear and concise narrative for their reaction vastly improves results.
Eliminating these five mistakes from the get-go should give your data PR campaign a huge leg up. And while they are some of the most common reasons some data PR initiatives fall flat, there are plenty of other factors that influence success. If you’re wondering what else your team can do to evolve your data PR campaigns from one-off tactics to true data storytelling platforms, check out our new eBook, How to Stand Out with Data.
Ian Lipner is a senior communications leader with deep experience in B2B and B2G tech. A SVP at Firebrand, Ian is focused on strategy, messaging and positioning, and media and content strategy.