Dec 26, 2018 / in Comms Best Practices / by Cision Contributor

PR has always been considered a long-term, highly effective marketing strategy. However, most startups face significant challenges when it comes to public relations. They know its importance, but often lack the resources and vision to stir up good PR. Building those important connections with your audience and the media can be costly, and with many new businesses operating on a tight budget, an ultra-robust PR campaign doesn’t always seem feasible.

That's where a data-driven approach comes into play.

Incorporating data into your strategy comes with tons of benefits. In fact, two out of three PR executives believe that data and analytics skills are absolutely necessary for success in today’s state of marketing.

Rich data-sets can provide your marketing team with the information they need to make smarter decisions and grow faster. And yet, Cision’s Global Comms report found that only 19 percent of companies were actually receiving the full benefits of data in their PR efforts. However, 61 percent found that data provided their team with better insight into content consumption, and 80 percent said it helped them understand how people found their brand’s content online.

So, how can startups create a more data-driven PR strategy? Let’s dive in.

Determine How to Narrate Your Brand Story

Data provides your team with the directions of how to get from point A to point B; however, without a starting point or a destination, these instructions are absolutely useless. This is why you must first define your brand down to the most minute details and identify your goals for the business before embarking on a data-driven PR strategy.

To determine your starting point, you must first understand who and what your brand is. This could mean literally defining your business’s personality as if it were a living, breathing person. To determine this brand story, you will need to answer questions like:

  • What does your business offer?
  • Who would be interested in your business?
  • What words would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
  • What is the general feeling you want to stir up when a customer interacts with your business?

Once you have the basis of your brand narrative in place, you will need to decide how you will be communicating it to your audience with data-backed strategies. Start off by making a clear and concise brand slogan (if you don’t already have one) that conveys this message to your customers immediately. Create an image of your brand with visual representations.

As you finalize your creative direction and start to test the waters, you will need to use your data-fueled reporting insights from your chosen platforms. With this information, you will start to understand who your brand is and who its customers are, and in turn, you will see how you can best narrate this story through PR messaging.

Review Your Present and Potential Data Sources

Though your startup may not have a plethora of data resources, there are certainly some databases and sources that you can pull from. You can start off by looking at information about your competitors. There are plenty of data-backed social listening tools that allow you to track the strategies of competing brands and identify their traffic sources, SEO strategies, and even their social media audiences. This can give you a better idea of what is or isn’t working for other companies in your industry and provide a foundation for your own data-driven strategies.

Shopify competitve analysis template.png

Source: Shopify

You’ll also need to use the data that you already have to gauge your storytelling efforts with each piece of content you publish. Take a look at the interactions you already have to see how customers currently perceive your brand. Conduct a preliminary market research campaign to identify customer pain points, opinions and suggestions to give insight into your current standings. Start with what you have and build from there.

Start Collecting Data from the Beginning

Referring back to Cision’s Global Comms report, 54 percent of PR professionals agreed that analytics and reporting were among their three most important activities for successful branding. Therefore, data collection needs to be a major part of your PR strategy from the very beginning.

There are plenty of ways to start gathering meaningful information about your customers. Whether you track real-time behavior through your company’s website, collect direct feedback from your customers, or invest in technology that tracks brand mentions and sentiment, the thing that matters is that you have a plan in place to gather accurate and relevant data. You can also buy data resources as well, such as surveys and consumer reports for reliable information on your customers’ demographics or industry.

Although you may not have a large amount of data resources to get started with, you need a plan to start building a robust database when traction picks up.

Use Data Insights to Create Actionable Content

Now, the most important step of establishing a data-driven PR plan for your startup is actually applying the data. This is often the trickiest part, even for the most knowledgeable and experienced marketers.

When it comes to using data insights to create actionable content in the way of PR, think about the concepts of cause marketing. Cause marketing is a strategy that works to tie things that are most important to your customers to your brand. You will need to use relevant datasets to understand your target audience and how they relate to a particular cause.

Studies have found that 90 percent of shoppers would be more likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause or takes a stand on a social issue. Therefore, following the cause marketing trend not only gives your company the chance to make a positive difference in the world; it can actually help make your business more profitable as well.

First, you will want to understand which cause(s) is going to be important to your audience base. You can use social media monitoring here to measure sentiment and see what types of organizations and accounts your target audience follows or how they feel about a certain topic.

If you have a certain cause in mind, you may want to conduct some research of your own and ask which topics are the most meaningful to them.

From here, a startup can incorporate this insight into their brand messaging and encourage people to get involved. Take Starbuck’s RED campaign as a great example here. The coffee brand saw that supporting AIDS treatments and prevention was an important cause that their customers support. So, Starbucks launched their RED campaign that donated a portion of every sale to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. They used their special cup design to build awareness and get customers involved in a cause that was truly important to them.


A data-driven PR strategy is surely one that will succeed in the long run. However, it’s important that startups understand how to create this kind of plan from the very beginning and get things started on the right foot.

Remember, PR strategies are more of a marathon than a sprint; it will take time to gather enough data for truly deep insights into your audience. Data-driven PR requires you to understand not just how to apply data, but how to gather the most meaningful sources of information as well.

2018 Global Comms Report CTA.png

About Taral Patel

Taral Patel is a digital marketer at E2M Solutions Inc with a focus on creating high-quality content and strong content marketing strategy that helps businesses to improve their overall online presence.

Most Recent Posts

Cision Blogs Topics

  • Communications Best Practices

    Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.

  • Cision Product News

    Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.

  • Executive Insights

    Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.

  • Media Blog

    A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.

About Cision Contributor

This post was written by a guest Cision contributor.