If ‘Content is King’, then ‘Data is Queen’. We need her to function within the hierarchy of everything we do in SEO. Without her, we can’t prove the value of what we do to our clients, and we certainly can’t function without her in Digital PR.
You may not realise it, just about everything we do in life involves data in some way. We are constantly generating data, whether we mean to or not. Every move we make online is tracked using data. Every letter used in this article is a sequence of data that tells a story.
Working in Digital PR has made me hyper-aware of everything I read. I like to indulge in a little @UberFacts Twitter scroll every now and then (a very boring guilty pleasure, I know) but now, every single time I read one of their impenetrable facts, figures, statistics or anything in-between, I can’t help but think, “Bet that’s from a Digital PR campaign”.
When you are part of such a large and competitive industry, it’s easy to feel a little discouraged if you’re working on a client with a smaller budget and have a great data-led idea you want to pitch to them. But while good data often comes at a cost, that’s not to say great and free data isn’t already out there.
Our Head of Digital PR, Lou, always tells us that if you can think of the data, then you will be able to find it somewhere out there on the internet. Or at least something similar. This is where free data sources come in.
We recently used entirely free and readily available social media data to pull together our campaign, ‘Just Plane Wrong’. Our brand building campaign surpassed even our own expectations and has now racked up over 5.5k pieces of coverage and backlinks, as well as securing us the following awards:
Best Use of Data – UK Search Awards 2022
Most Innovative Campaign – UK Search Awards 2022
Low Budget Campaign of the Year – Global Digital PR Awards 2022
Stunt of the Year (Silver Award) – Global Digital PR Awards 2022
Best In-house / Self Promotion – The Drum Awards for Digital Industries 2022
And that’s just so far...
Rather than spending huge amounts of your budget creating new datasets, here’s a bunch of our Digital PR team’s go-to free data sources to utilise for those times when you’re stuck on inspiration or short on capacity for creative content. After all, Data is Queen – especially when she’s free...
How else would you find anything online without a good old fashioned google search? As mentioned, if you have a research or dataset in mind, it’s very likely that someone else has had a similar train of thought and already researched what you need.
For example, say you were looking to run a piece of creative content for outreach on the cars most featured in movies. A quick Google search might direct you to a site like this, where someone has already compiled everything you need.
Using either a regular Google search or a Google Dataset Search is not only a great way to look for existing datasets on your topic, but a great way to then do some further research through your backlink checkers to see how that data has been cited in the past – allowing you to find fresh angles to share with the press.
Before you yawn, social media is one of the easiest ways to get data – especially data that is relevant. If you’re clever about it, that is.
For example, with our previously mentioned ‘Just Plane Wrong’ campaign, we scraped data from the @CelebJets Twitter account to uncover which celebrities were taking the most (tracked) flights on their private jets. We then combined this data with the insights of our Digital Sustainability Director, Chris Butterworth, who determined estimates of each celeb’s CO2e by looking at the fuel consumption of each model of jet included in our study.
Similarly, you might want to look at #hashtags on Instagram or the number of videos created on a particular topic on TikTok and their view count. Whilst it might be seen as an overdone Digital PR tactic that journalists might be quick to dismiss, if you genuinely have an idea inspired by trends you’ve spotted on your own and can tangibly link it to your client, these quick win PR campaigns can work wonders.
Using in-house data
Regardless of the vertical of client you look after: retail, travel, jewellery, financial or car insurance, I can guarantee you that they have reems of in-house data that you can repurpose to tell a story.
Does your client have the expertise to comment on reactive news in the form of a quote? Perhaps your client has sales data that supports a current news story. There are so many avenues you can go down to use this data – you're likely sitting on a goldmine.
For example, using sale data increases that can back up a trending topic you're looking to pitch is an excellent way to prove relevancy to a journalist. And, of course, gives them even more reason to credit you with a backlink.
There are thousands upon thousands of websites with existing statistic sets available for you to use. Whilst these datasets might have been used in the past, think about how you can add new value to them and link them to the current news cycle.
A few of our favourites are: Statista, Office of National Statistics, YouGov, Data.Gov.Uk and Companies House
Don’t underestimate the power of getting lost in a Reddit sub-thread rabbit hole. Reddit can be just as valuable, if not more valuable, than social listening.
Think of Reddit as a source of all that is on the cusp of exploding on the internet. If it's big on Reddit, then you can best believe it'll be big in the mainstream shortly after, so it’s a great way of ensuring you’re riding the trends before they become fads.
If you don’t have a specific topic in mind and are just looking for some general inspiration, try having a comb through the ‘Datasets’ sub. Be warned. It’s a biggie.
Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs)
Our Digital PR team has two ex-student journalists, so we’re always looking for things to run FOIs on. FOIs are notoriously not as quick as they should be, so you’ll want to make sure you have a decent amount of time to allow this one to process.
If you didn’t already know, the Freedom of Information Act in the UK gives you the right to ask any public sector organisation for any information they hold – and they have 20 working days to give it to you.
For example, if you had a health-focused client and wanted to do a localised idea about which region in the UK has the longest GP wait times, you could contact each local NHS jurisdiction to get the averages and cross-compare your findings.
If you are strapped for time, WhatDoTheyKnow allows you to browse existing (answered) FOIs.
Once you’ve spotted a trend, you can punch the topic you’ve uncovered into Google Trends to tangibly see (in that good old data way), exactly how much searches for the topic have increased over your selected period of time. We recommend the Glimpse plugin – it'll do the math for you!
Our fabulous Digital PR Exec, Monika, did just that for our client, Crown Pavilions, last year ahead of the launch of season 2 of Bridgerton to spot what search trends were emerging for the show.
Monika used the increases she saw in Bridgerton trends to outreach a ‘Regency-core for your garden’ release, securing 28 pieces of coverage, including 23 backlinks. Whilst also:
Taking the client from position 14 to position 5 over six months for the search term “garden room”
Increasing the organic traffic to the client's Garden Rooms page by 31%
A bit like Google Trends, except Exploding Topics offer an amazing breakdown newsletter of things that are starting to, well, explode! We love this one...