How to Create a Media-Worthy Data Story

Publicists outnumber journalists 5:1, according to one forecast. But even without the hard numbers to prove it, one trend is clear: For big and small companies alike, strong PR visibility is tough to attain. Think about it—journalists are flooded with requests and potential story ideas. What is it about you that stands out? What makes you different?

Many companies are turning to their customer data to answer this question. Take RJMetrics, for instance. The SaaS analytics company has access to a wealth of industry insight and trend data that they’ve repacked into digestible, media friendly reports, like their State of Data Science Report in 2015, which aggregated trends from 11,400 data scientists across 6,200 companies LinkedIn. In addition to publishing the study on their own blog, RJMetrics shared its findings with various media outlets serving the data science community. Even Accel Partners, a prominent venture capital firm in Silicon Valley tweeted the study.

Chances are that your company, like RJMetrics, collects a wealth of information that bloggers, brands, and journalists at news outlets would value citing. But how do you make sure that your efforts are successful?

The answer is as simple as it is complex: You need to tell the right story. Here are 4 steps that can help you do that.

1. Contribute to an ongoing debate or discussion

Not sure what data your readers will care about? Don’t hedge your bets. Instead, do a little digging and see what your target audiences are already writing and talking about. Figure out where your company can add a unique perspective. Formulate a research question. Explore your dataset.

The RJMetrics example exemplifies this takeaway. The company identified a distinct audience (data scientists and data science job seekers) and created research question, “What is the state of data science as a profession?” With this focus and direction, RJMetrics designed a simple methodology.

MethodologyFrom this methodology, RJMetrics developed a clear set of takeaways that target readers could digest.

RJMetricsThe benefits of contributing to an ongoing discussion? You have an instant audience to reach. Think about your data like it’s a product that you’re building. What good will your information be without a target market or reader-base? Create a report that your audience will care about.

2. Build the ultimate growth hack for long-term PR and branding

Once you’ve identified your key readers and the topics they care about, you’ll be in a strong position to share your report. Start by creating a list of media outlets or audience-specific publications that your audience cares about. In RJMetrics’ cases, these channels were likely blogs where data science hiring managers are spending their time—like Udacity, for instance.

A recent Udacity blog post cited the RJMetrics study in an article, The Skills You Need to Launch a Data Science Career. Several other data science community websites did the same.

UdacityBy being a credible source of information RJMetrics positioned itself as an authority in a rapidly emerging field. If you think about it, that’s a really valuable branding tactic when the competition for audience attention spans is stronger than ever.

Become a leader in a rapidly growing audience. This strategy is key to long-term success with PR—you and your company can gain name recognition.

3. Build something that people can use

From creating educational infographics to building interactive tools, you can use data to create a functional, useful tool. As an example, check out this infographic on crowdfunding, which uses industry data to help explain an important but confusing concept. You can also take a look at this c-section predictor that health tech company Amino built using its own data.

AminoBy building a tool that answers an industry question, you’ll position your company as a hub. The key is to focus on a subject area in which you can introduce a new perspective. Create a resource that solves a problem. An infographic (or even a blog post) may be all that you need.

4. Be transparent about your biases

You’re publishing this data on behalf of a company. By definition, you have a perspective that may not be an accurate cross-section of reality. Where does your data come from? Is it skewed in any way?

If your product caters to a small subset, for instance, you should not be suggesting that your information is representative of the general population. If the trends that you observe aren’t statistically significant, you can’t generalize those either.

Be honest about where your data comes from. No dataset is perfect. Remember that “room for improvement” section that you used to write in your research reports?

The reports that you pitch to the media should be just as thoughtful.

Final Thoughts

Your report is ultimately a product. Make sure to craft it with the highest levels of quality possible. Think of your data as a value-add to ongoing discussions. Be straightforward. Be direct. Share information as transparently as possible. Authenticity will be essential to your media outreach.

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