Data is your Friend

By: Amy Douglas

Amy Douglas, APR has more than 25 years of experience working with a variety of arts and cultural organizations.  When she’s not practicing her archery skills or working toward her goal of becoming a superhero, she works as director of marketing and communications for University of Florida Performing Arts – a position she’s held since 2008.  

Despite knowing that having a firm grip on your organization’s data is key to creating effective PR campaigns, many of us still neglect this important area.  It could be that, in our time-stressed world, there is simply no way to add another task to your overflowing to-do list.  It could be a lack of resources.  It could be that you chose to work in PR because numbers are really, really scary.  No matter what excuses you’ve allowed yourself to believe, if you can use the Internet and Excel, you can master your organization’s data.

The first step is knowing what to measure.  For example, knowing how many likes you’ve accumulated on Facebook is great.  But how many people are your messages reaching?  When it comes to social media, you need to measure the engagement of your posts, e.g. the number of likes, shares and comments that are being generated.  Without measuring the engagement factor, you’re missing a key ingredient for content creation, and your content, not to mention your campaign, is likely to suffer.

The second step is knowing how to track your data.  You need something more functional that the back of a napkin or your son’s spelling homework.  It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet that tracks the number of shares your Facebook post received, the phone calls your organization logged after a PSA ran or whatever statistics you need to measure.  (Unsure of what to measure?  Just think back to your plan’s objectives.)  There are also a number of online tools that can help you, from Google Analytics to HootSuite to and beyond.  Try them all and then choose the one that works for you.  

Now that you have your data, what do you do with it?  You put it to work!  Data can help you with a number of your strategic decisions, from knowing when to tweet, to what media sources work best to reach your target audience.  It can also help you set prices for your organization’s products, design a better website and incorporate proven advertising strategies into your campaigns.

Data can be scary.  But if you take the plunge into the data pool, you won’t be sorry.  You’ll be fully equipped to handle whatever the PR fates – or your boss – throws at you.


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