How to Use Data to Create Newsworthy Content

by Posted @ Nov 07 2018

Data is a very broad term. As a result, there are many different directions you can go with a data-based content marketing campaign. A data campaign can take the form of a survey, a new spin on an existing data set, or a city ranking analysis. We have some data buffs on our team who have helped us execute numerous data-focused campaigns through the years. And while many have been some of our most successful campaigns, we’ve also done some not so great data campaigns that we’ve learned a lot from. I’m here to offer you some helpful tips on the best ways to use data to create newsworthy content so (perhaps) you can avoid making some of the same mistakes.

Before we get into the how to effectively use data to create newsworthy content, there are a few must-haves to keep in mind when you’re determining your campaign strategy. These seemingly small details can be the difference in a flip or flop campaign.

In order to get picked up by top-tier journalists, your data must:

  • Be from a reputable source – your source can make or break your data campaign. If the source you base your campaign off of isn’t trustworthy, that immediately lowers the bar for your whole project. An example of a great universally agreed upon reliable data source is the US Census.
  • Be accurate – one miscalculation can throw off your entire campaign, so it’s imperative to be meticulous during your data collection and analysis process.
  • Be from a source that makes sense for the specific project – it’s important to consider your data source for every single project you work on. For example, we’ve built some awesome campaigns off of Google Trends data, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right source for every campaign. In those instances, if it doesn’t make sense for a person to use Google for what you’re analyzing, the results won’t have much stake.
  • Be easy to explain –  this one comes into play during the outreach process. If you have a long-winded methodology that’s tough to follow, you run the risk of losing outreach contacts during the pitch simply because it’s complicated. Your methodology should be concise and easy to understand.

Here are a few tips and best practices to keep in mind when crafting your own data campaigns.

Build your data campaign on topics trending in the news

Begin with the end in mind – if you want to secure strong coverage from top-tier news sites, you need to think like a journalist. And what’s the easiest way to do that? Read the news! Whether it’s following news sites on Twitter or subscribing to your favorite newspaper online, reading the news daily will allow you to stay up-to-date on trending topics that are worth creating content about. I’ve said before that Google News is one of my favorite tools to use to drum up campaigns ideas for clients, and you and your team can also get a lot of value out of it.

A good exercise to do before pitching a data campaign (or any campaign for that matter) to a client is to brainstorm 10 story headlines that a journalist could potentially write about your data. If you, the brains behind the entire project, struggle to come up with 10, this is a sign that the project could end up struggling to secure the type of pickup you’re after.

No matter how intriguing or well put together your data campaign is, if it’s not related to a topic worth writing about, you won’t be effective at getting journalists’ attention during outreach.

Build data campaigns that appeal to specific audiences

Build your data campaign with a specific audience in mind. Two of our favorite campaign formats for targeting specific geographical audiences are Google Trends and city ranking campaigns.

Google opens up their bank of search to the rest of the world through Google Trends. It’s a great tool to use to see what and how often specific keywords are being searched and where. The way that we’ve most often utilized it to create content for a specific audience is the “state-by-state” search feature. We’ve used Google Trends to determine the most searched beer, dog breed, car brand, and more in every state. The results make for a great visual map that provides state-by-state insights to pitch to journalists.

Another common data campaign format we use to target specific audiences is a city ranking analysis. Local journalists love it when their city is the “best” at something, so building out a methodical data system that ranks cities on some sort of criteria can be an excellent opportunity to ego-bait journalists. From the greenest cities to the best cities for a 5K, our team has been able to execute a lot of creative angles on this format to high degrees of success.

By providing data on a journalist’s home city or state, you’re handing them a story that’s extremely relevant to their audience, which ultimately makes their job easier – something we can all appreciate.

Offer something new

A successful data campaign does more than compile a batch of existing interesting statistics and data points in a series of cool graphics. It’s data that takes it one step further that will help you generate the news coverage you’re after. Is there any additional calculation you can do to present the data in a new way? For example, in a recent campaign about remote work, one of our team members combined available data on average commute length in various cities with the average price of gas to determine the annual savings of working remote. While anyone could have obtained the same data set on commute times, our calculations made the new data original to our client. It doesn’t have to include insanely complicated calculations in order to be successful, it just needs to be interesting.

With the numerous directions you can go with a data campaign, these tips barely scratch the surface on effective ways to create newsworthy content. Like I mentioned before, we’re a team of data buffs, so you’ll likely see more from us on the subject in later posts!

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