By Mark Simon, Managing Director of North American and Toluna Digital, Toluna

PR professionals are continually tasked with creating dynamic and creative strategies to engage with their target audiences in rapidly changing environments. To address this challenge, PR professionals ought to take a page out of the marketer’s playbook and pull in current consumer data and insights into their communications programs.

Your PR program can benefit by using research to add credibility to press releases, support media pitches with relevant consumer insights and power byline articles with supporting data. Data can also help you substantiate product and branding claims. Ad hoc research studies also provide an opportunity to partner with media by delivering fresh data-based content.

Here are five recommendations to help PR pros make smarter, more informed decisions this year:

Address Your Need for Speed. Time is a scarce commodity for PR teams so speed is king. Viral trends emerge and then disappear quickly. News cycles are short. There is constant pressure to make quick decisions on whether or not you will leverage a breaking news story for your own brand. Original, third-party data can make the difference between your company being featured in the top story of the day and flying under the radar. Look to leverage online surveys—with do-it-yourself tools—for data and insights that keep pace with fast-moving news stories.

Ask “But Why?” to Improve Your PR Strategy. The act of collecting data is no longer a challenge for businesses with the availability of transactional data, passive data monitoring and more. But as a PR professional looking to craft a compelling narrative for your business, or your client’s business, it’s not enough to know how the business is performing. If you want to leverage target audience research to build out your messaging, be sure to place greater focus on asking “but why” to gain deeper consumer insights. Answering “why” can help you to pinpoint emotion which “is the core driver of customer loyalty and spending,” according to Forrester Research.

Permission-based Digital Tracking. Having In-App tracking data for content-level video and music consumption, ad exposure, and e-Commerce at the SKU, advertisement or program level can provide valuable information in communications planning. This will help you gain greater insights into the day-in-the-life of consumer activities and spend. It will enable you to design programs that speak to and engage with your content consumer, not to a device.

Leverage Automated Concept Testing. Companies are launching new campaigns more easily and quickly than ever. PR teams need to be able to build messaging and a narrative for campaigns rapidly without compromising on quality. An effective way to test a new campaign is through online survey and insights tools. To test your initiative, leverage automated concept testing to understand the strength of branding, message and creative concepts. This will allow you and your brand to move from ideation to insight in just hours, something traditional concept testing methods can’t support.

Tap the Power of Big Data Analytics. Data analytics and visualization tools can expedite your analysis of market research information. These tools enable you to receive actionable information on demand, within moments of a research project launch. Data analytics and visualization will allow you to make better recommendations quickly and easily, and share and report information faster than ever before.

We live in a data-rich world. So the challenge—and opportunity—is not about gathering as much data as possible but rather gathering the right data. It is critical to have an accurate, up-to-the-minute view on how your target audience perceives your brand. Leveraging these tips can provide PR professionals with the reliable, actionable and high-quality consumer data they need to build their strategy in an uncertain, fluid world.

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Bulldog Reporter is a leader in media intelligence supplying news, analysis and high-level training content to public relations and corporate communications professionals with the mission of helping these practitioners achieve superior competitive performance.

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