Adapting to the new media landscape: how data can unlock innovation in PR


Advertising and marketing brands have long been using data to inform their strategies and understand customer and consumer motivations. But public relations and communications firms have traditionally been slow to the party when it comes to using data to enhance their campaigns.

We sat down to discuss how data can unlock innovation in PR with Caroline Coventry, Director at Nelson Bostock UNLIMITED, and Dr. Simon Collister, Director of our Human Understanding Lab, in the latest edition of our Human Understanding Lab Leaders podcast.



PR firms have traditionally used data for primary measuring purposes, such as media monitoring and share of voice, or to justify their clients’ spending. But they are yet to reap its full value through techniques like audience understanding, influencer mapping and informing planning processes. As a result, they’re only scratching the surface of data’s possibilities.

As Caroline explained: “Advertising and marketing agencies use data day-in and day-out to inform every transaction and decision, but in PR we aren’t doing that. We hope the stories and creative will do all the talking and deliver the impact we’re looking for. But I think there’s a rich opportunity for us to do so much more with data to better inform the creative and the execution.”



PR firms certainly haven’t been blind to the power of data for developing creative ideas, as public opinion surveys have long been used to generate new stories. However, data is increasingly crucial to helping them navigate the rapidly evolving media landscape and identify the influencers that matter most to their clients.

As Simon outlined: “The media landscape is becoming even more fragmented, so in addition to having more traditional and digital publications, we now have individuals becoming publications in their own right. So you need to be able to map networks of influencers within a particular field or sector.”

In addition to finding new targets, PR firms can also use data to understand individuals’ interests, motivations and passions. This insight can help them create stories that resonate with influencers and build stronger relationships with journalists.

As Caroline pointed out: “Data can help us be more certain that audiences will be receptive to certain messages and that we’re using the right channels to target the right influencers. We can then be more confident in telling clients what story to tell or the areas they need to place their budget to have the greatest impact.”

A data-driven strategy can help PR practitioners create eye-catching creatives and be more likely to succeed in the execution of their campaigns. It may demand more time investment through the briefing and ideation process but, in the long run, turning to data will generate better results, more impactful campaigns and happier clients.



As traditional and new digital media spaces converge, PR firms need to be open to novel approaches. This includes bringing brands directly to their audiences, which goes against the traditional PR and comms approach of using influencers to convey brand messages.

New techniques like social listening or social analytics can help PR firms to discover new communities and interesting topics their clients weren’t previously aware of. Meanwhile, real-time data analysis can help clients understand what’s being said in communities and to recognise the risk of not being able to react.

Caroline added: “We need to show clients that we have our finger on the pulse and the insight they’re missing out on before they’re aware of it. We can then justify higher PR budgets because we can prove better impact in campaigns.”



Every brand is on a journey in terms of using data and how much they can process. But Caroline and Simon had the following advice for companies keen to use data to enhance their campaigns:

  • Start small and expand: It’s vital to start small rather than immediately overhauling an existing comms approach. Consider using data to identify new publications or platforms and trust the insight to explore new audiences and opportunities.
  • Be inquisitive and evolve: Use data to understand where audiences are engaging and shape stories that help brands get heard. Map that insight over time and regularly review it to ensure brands engage in new platforms and take their stories to new audiences.
  • Look to outside successes: Data is already working in practice across the advertising and marketing industries. Look to examples of success outside PR and comms and review how companies use data in intelligent ways to develop more informed strategies.
  • Keep an open mind: Data can create new opportunities that brands wouldn’t previously have considered. PR brands need to trust data around what motivates their audience and develop comms campaigns that align with that insight.

Data offers a massive opportunity for PR firms to build more innovative campaigns. It can help them improve their planning processes, develop better-informed creatives and target the right audiences. And all of that combined helps them exceed client expectations and attract more significant campaign budgets.

Discover the opportunities that data presents for PR practitioners by listening to the podcast in full. And get in touch to discover how our teams can help you use data to improve your campaigns.


Caroline Coventry, Director at Nelson Bostock UNLIMITED:

Dr Simon Collister, Human Understanding Lab Director: