4 Factors When Building a Data-Driven PR Strategy

Key Insights 📈 📊

  • Embrace Data-Driven Storytelling: Data is the cornerstone of effective PR strategies. By conducting a thorough media coverage analysis, you can identify priority media outlets, understand their reach and engagement, and tailor your approach to maximize impact.
  • Master the Art of Brand Storytelling: Stories are the lifeblood of compelling PR. Companies need to frame their news within larger industry narratives, making their pitches about their products or services and the broader context in which they operate.
  • Adopt a Newsroom’s Agility: Speed and adaptability are key in today’s fast-paced media landscape. Brands must be ready to respond to breaking news or trending topics, positioning themselves as active participants in the ongoing industry conversation.
  • Leverage Diverse Content Distribution Channels: Effective PR is about more than just earned media. Utilizing a mix of blog posts, videos, social media, and paid media can significantly amplify your message and reach your target audience more effectively.
  • Understand the Interplay of PR and Marketing: While distinct, PR and marketing should work together. PR focuses on managing brand reputation and engaging with external stakeholders while marketing zeroes on customer acquisition and retention. Together, they form a comprehensive approach to brand communication.
  • Prepare for Crisis Management: Every PR strategy should include a plan for handling negative media coverage or a PR crisis. Preparing for the unexpected can help mitigate damage and maintain a positive brand image even in challenging times.

Launching your public relations strategy would be amazing. Sit back, relax, sip on a glass of wine, and watch the results pouring in. But, sadly, that will never happen.

Every brand must learn to develop a PR strategy that delivers results. However, not every organization knows how to do this the right way. In this post, I’ll walk you through creating a strategic PR strategy for your business. I’ll start by laying out your media relations goals and objectives, developing critical messaging, and identifying your target audience. Finally, we’ll outline some tips for implementing your public relations plan and improving your PR media strategy.

What is a PR Strategy?

Before diving into public relations strategies, defining PR for those new to the industry is important. A public relations (PR) strategy is a planned, proactive approach to managing and controlling a brand’s reputation and perception. It involves developing positive relationships with media, stakeholders, and the general public through strategic messaging and communication tactics.

The primary objectives of a PR strategy are to:

  • Build brand awareness and favorable visibility through earned media placements and audience engagement.
  • Establish thought leadership and credibility by positioning company spokespeople as trusted industry experts.
  • Promote positive brand narratives and strategic messaging across owned, earned, and social channels.
  • Monitor public opinion of the brand and address issues or controversies with appropriate responses.
  • Develop and protect the brand’s reputation and relationships with key audiences.

While the goal is to garner positive coverage, preparing for negative press is also critical. An effective PR strategy considers potential risks and crises, outlines quick response processes, and mitigates damages. This crisis readiness is just as important as promotion — a strong PR strategy balances proactive offense and vigilant defense.

A comprehensive PR plan requires in-depth research, clear goals, audience understanding, stakeholder mapping, crisis preparation, metrics/tracking, and adaptable strategies to meet evolving needs. With smart PR foundations, brands can build goodwill, trust, and lasting connections vital for long-term success.

The folks at Easy Marketing produce these really simple videos that can help make sense of PR strategy.

Public Relations vs. Marketing

Brands use public relations and marketing strategies to promote their products and services. Public relations is more about the general philosophy and approach for communicating company and business values to various stakeholders. A PR strategy enables brands to reach their target audience using key messages and PR tactics. Marketing is more about customer acquisition and retention. However, having strong public relations and marketing are equally important and should always work together. Many PR pros are using the PESO model for public relations, which helps ensure that communications and marketing are integrated and working together.

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between brands and their publics. It manages brand reputation by influencing opinion and perception through earned media, word-of-mouth, events, and other communications tactics. A core component is cultivating strong relationships with media, influencers, and other key stakeholders to grow brand awareness and shape positive narratives about the business.

In contrast, marketing deals with promoting products, services and ideas through paid advertising and customer engagement strategies. It utilizes channels like social media, email, digital ads, content, and influencer partnerships to reach and convert potential customers. While PR and marketing have distinct approaches, they share the goal of brand visibility and should be tightly aligned for maximum impact.

An integrated strategy ensures that PR and marketing efforts work synergistically to expand reach, drive engagement, and acquire and retain customers. PR provides credibility and reputation management, while marketing activates conversations and conversions. Blending earned, owned, social, and paid (PESO model) allows brands to coordinate messaging across channels and deliver consistent experiences that resonate. With team alignment, PR and marketing combine to pack a powerful punch.

Public Relations Explained

Public relations is a strategic communications approach that aims to influence public opinion and manage brand reputation through systematic campaigns engaging media, influencers, and key stakeholders. Core PR tactics include media relations to secure earned placements, executive comms, events, and outreach to journalists, reporters, and industry leaders. A subset is focused on media relations, building connections with the press and influencers to gain positive brand awareness and messaging in target media outlets.

Marketing Explained

Marketing entails strategies for reaching and engaging potential customers to promote products, services, and ideas. Core marketing tactics include advertising, creative, paid media, demand generation, influencer partnerships, customer research, content distribution, and overall customer engagement. An integrated marketing strategy leverages owned, earned, paid, and social channels, emphasizing alignment with PR to maximize brand visibility and conversion of prospects.

The 4 Pillars for Building a Strategic PR Strategy

Four critical things must be done to make any public relations program deliver results–data, storytelling, agility, and distribution.

DataStorytelling is about framing your company’s news within a larger industry narrative. This makes your pitches more appealing to the media and helps your brand connect with your audience on a deeper level.
StorytellingStorytelling is about framing company news within a larger industry narrative. This makes your pitches more appealing to the media and helps your brand connect with your audience on a deeper level.
AgilityAgility is about responding quickly and adapting to breaking news or trending topics. Brands must operate like a newsroom, positioning themselves as active participants in the ongoing industry conversation.
DistributionDistribution is about using various tactics to distribute your content and reach your target audience. This includes earned media, blog posts, videos, social media, and paid media.

1. Data-driven Storytelling is the Only Option

When I say “only option,” I mean it’s the “only option” to ensure your media strategy and campaigns can deliver against your business goals. Otherwise, you will do what most PR people do, hoping for the best.

For context, when I talk about data-driven storytelling, I am talking more about data and analytics used to inform a PR strategy versus measuring the results. Don’t get me wrong, PR measurement is essential, but it’s not necessarily a building block of a good PR campaign strategy.

A smart and strategic PR strategy will start with a media coverage analysis. This analysis will help define which media outlets should be prioritized to gain exposure based on the volume of coverage about an industry, topic, or narrative on various media channels. You could also cross-reference reader engagement at the media outlet level to understand whether those stories resonate with the target audience. Finally, you can layer on the reach of each media publication to better understand potential impressions.

Data in this context can also uncover the top journalists writing about various topics, including their specific volume of coverage, engagement on their articles, and reach of their personal social media profiles.

Lastly, you can use data to uncover hidden narratives from an extensive data set of media publications or just one media outlet. With text or network analysis, you can understand the context of stories and specific coverage.

For example, if you are researching which media publications are writing about cloud security, an analysis like this can uncover the actual “cloud security” topics that are being written about the most (e.g., scale cloud, cloud migration, AI, firewall). This media intelligence can help shape a PR campaign strategy, brand messaging, and even pitch emails.

2. The Lost Art of Brand Storytelling

The problem with many companies is that they don’t have any stories to pitch to the media. They think a product launch or hiring a new CEO is “newsworthy.” It’s not. Pitching interesting story ideas is excellent as long as they fit into a larger narrative relevant to the media.

However, a savvy PR pro should frame a product launch story within a larger industry narrative in which the media will be interested. So, again, data analysis is essential because you can uncover those hidden narratives that are already relevant to what the media is writing about and frame your pitches accordingly.

Storytelling isn’t all about math. It’s a strategic framework that aligns a brand narrative with core topics and themes and then clearly documents a messaging strategy that isn’t all about the company. Remember, it has to fit into a larger construct so that the media can understand how your product or service is helping the industry move forward or solve a particular business problem.

It’s also critical that your PR strategist has the “gift of gab.” So they can talk, persuade, and influence others through written and verbal communication.

3. Being Agile Like a Newsroom

A traditional newsroom moves fast. First, everyone is “guns blazing” when a story breaks to ensure they are on the scene and ready to report. Then, the reporter, editor, producer, and creative team are either on location or producing the “breaking news” segment back in the newsroom. It’s a well-oiled machine.

Brands need to operate in the same way. Years ago, there was a term that many industry pundits used to describe this brand movement. It was either “brand as publisher” or “brand as a media company,” but it means the same thing. So, in 2013, I wrote a book called “Your Brand: The Next Media Company,” a blueprint that enterprise brands could use to transform their marketing and communications teams to operationalize their brand storytelling.

The industry doesn’t talk much about this anymore, but it’s still a critical shift that needs to happen within PR and communications teams. The media doesn’t just wait around for companies to pitch them stories. They are always hunting.

Real-time listening to the media, journalists, and reporters is one way that brands can get ahead and insert themselves into relevant stories because the state of media today is shifting. But they have to be agile to do so.

4. Surround Sound Target Audiences with Content Distribution

It saddens me to hear a PR person say, “Oh, we don’t do paid media. It’s not a part of our public relations plan. We’re the PR team, so earned coverage is all we do.”

This is not the right way to think about a PR campaign strategy. Public relations aims to increase brand reputation and change perceptions and behaviors. You can’t do that by writing a press release, distributing it through a wire service, and calling it a day.

There are several tactics that PR teams can use to distribute content into the marketplace, but I’ll highlight a few. For example, instead of writing a press release, I would do the following:

1Write a blog post optimized for the keywords and phrases you want to rank for. Remember, it has to address a more extensive narrative than just your product.
2Record a video of how your story impacts the industry. Use a spokesperson who has some level of influence.
3Post the video on YouTube and optimize the titles and descriptions.
4Embed the video on the blog post.
5Cut the video into smaller segments for social media channels and link back to the blog post. This will increase website traffic.
6Invest in small and strategic paid media buys through Google paid search and YouTube ads. You’d be surprised at how far a $500 investment in paid media will take your PR strategy.
7Upload a list of journalists to Twitter as a custom audience. Then, create social media content and target just the custom audience. The journalists may not click on the content, but they will see it, which could benefit future conversations or pitches.

This approach isn’t as straightforward as I am making it out to be. First, thinking through all the social media channels, key messages, and PR objectives takes time. Second, it takes effort to create different versions of content that should be tailored to fit into the construct of each channel. Third, planning using content collaboration platforms and research for each PR tactic takes place. Planning for successful PR strategies isn’t a task that should be done quickly.

The Basics of Public Relations Strategies and Tactics

There’s a lot that goes into strategies in public relations. Here’s a glance at what you can expect.

PR Strategies At-A-Glance

Identifying the Target AudienceUnderstand who your audience is, what media publications they read, their values, and basic demographics.
Setting GoalsIdentify what you want to accomplish with your PR campaign. This could range from crisis management to brand awareness.
Developing Core MessagesIdentify the key messaging your brand wants to be known for and use that to inform all outbound communications.
Establishing Media RelationsIdentify the top media outlets where you want coverage and build relationships with these outlets.
Considering Influencer MarketingUnderstand the difference between influencer relations and influencer marketing and decide which approach is best for your brand.
Measuring SuccessDevelop a PR measurement strategy that accounts for more than reach and impressions. It should address all of your PR objectives.
Considering SEO VisibilityUnderstand the long-term benefits of creating long-form content on your owned media channels to increase brand awareness over time.
Using PR SoftwareUtilize PR tools and strategies available today to support your PR efforts.
Fostering CollaborationStrive for synergy and collaboration between different marketing teams for a concerted effort.
Planning for Crisis ManagementDevelop a crisis management plan as a core part of all PR strategies.
Setting a TimelineSet a specific timeline and deadline for your PR strategies and campaigns to keep everyone on track.
BudgetingAllocate a budget for headcount, a consultant, a PR agency, media software, award submissions, tradeshows, events, and presentations.

Identify the Target Audience

Public relations strategies and tactics always begin with understanding an audience. Conduct in-depth research to build detailed buyer personas identifying demographic and psychographic profiles. Map which media channels and publications your brand personas actively engage with. Uncover their values, priorities, pain points, and decision motivators.

These insights allow for tailored messaging that genuinely resonates. Ensure pitches and narratives align with personas’ worldviews when launching an earned media campaign. Consistently assess analytics to see how messaging performs with each segment and optimize accordingly. Audiences differ – one size does not fit all.

Establish the Right Goals

Defining specific, measurable goals directs PR programs and aligns efforts to business objectives. If managing a crisis, the goal may be straightforward – minimize reputational damage. But most campaigns have multiple goals to address.

Potential goals include driving brand awareness, increasing favorability, securing Tier 1 media placements, promoting thought leadership, generating leads, recruiting talent, supporting policy issues, and more. Document overarching goals upfront, then develop SMART objectives defining how to achieve each.

Continuously track performance on goals, and be ready to course correct if needed. Having clear goals also allows for post-campaign impact analysis to inform future strategies. Outcomes are never guaranteed, but well-defined goals put PR plans on the optimal path.

Develop The Core Message

The core message sits at the heart of brand communications. It encapsulates the central idea a company wants to convey to its audience. The core message expresses a brand’s essence — the most important value to highlight or the defining trait that sets it apart.

An effective core message should be clear and concise yet impactful. It must resonate with target audiences by aligning with their needs, interests, and aspirations. Messaging is about the words used and the style and tone embodied. The core message should reflect a brand’s personality and voice.

While many aspects of branding require creativity, data should inform core message development. Smart brands research and analyze customer feedback to identify the issues, trends, and topics that matter most to their audience. These insights ensure the core message effectively speaks to the audience’s concerns. Data helps brands anchor creative expression in strategy.

The end goal is a focused, memorable message that communicates the brand’s identity and purpose. Consistent reinforcement across all touchpoints is crucial. When aligned with audience insights, a compelling core message provides the strategic foundation for impactful communications.

Narrative Development & Messaging Goals

Messaging goals provide strategic direction when developing communications. They are the specific objectives a brand wants to achieve through its narratives and storytelling. Establishing clear goals guides the creation of supportive key messages and ensures communications remain focused.

One messaging goal may be conveying a certain brand positioning or perspective. For example, a company launching an innovative new product might aim to highlight its advanced features and customer value proposition. This guides the crafting of messages centered on that unique angle.

Another goal could be reinforcing the core brand narrative itself. Tactics like repeating messages across channels, using memorable phrasing, or adding supporting facts can help achieve message memorability and persuasion.

Supplementary key messages are crucial in accomplishing goals by bolstering the core brand story. These may include anecdotes, statistics, or case studies that make messages relatable while underscoring the main points.

Ultimately, messaging goals should align with business objectives, be realistic yet ambitious, and remain nimble. As circumstances or audience needs to evolve, PR pros must adapt goals and messages accordingly. Compelling narratives can powerfully convey brand stories and drive results when grounded in strategy.

Strategic Media Relations

Media relations sit at the core of impactful PR strategies and tactics. Identifying and prioritizing target media outlets where high-value coverage aligns with brand objectives is essential. Rather than defaulting to prestige publications, smart PR prioritizes outlets reaching specific target demographics.

Conduct audience research to determine which mediums and journalists your personas actively engage with. Partner with PR agencies with existing relationships with these targets to ease outreach efforts. Pitch strategically across multiple factors – not just vanity placements.

Securing earned media hits is a long game relying on relationship building. Consistently engage reporters with compelling story angles tied to newsworthy trends. Be a trusted resource, not a passive promoter. Build authentic connections to become a reliable first call for commentary and exclusives.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer relations focuses on cultivating select individuals as brand advocates to expand reach. It involves developing organic relationships with influencers and providing value to them as strategic partners. The goal is to create powerful connections that drive authentic influence.

Influencer marketing is more transactional, paying influencers to create branded social content for broader campaigns. Both tactics require market analysis to identify influencers who engage your audiences. Tailor outreach and build lasting relationships.

Earned Media Measurement

A strategic measurement framework is crucial for assessing PR impact. Look beyond generalized metrics like reach and impressions to directly connect activities to business goals. Survey target audiences exposed to messaging to gauge shifts in awareness, favorability, and intent.

Consider the impact on lead generation, recruitment, legislative policies, and other areas of PR contributes. Conduct competitive analysis to benchmark share of voice and sentiment. Measure how narratives spread across earned, owned, and shared channels over time.

Robust analytics inform optimization, but meaningful measurement requires a customized portfolio approach based on initial campaign objectives.

SEO Visibility

Gaining visibility through search engines provides lasting returns. Creating long-form, evergreen content on owned sites allows brands to rank for relevant keywords organically. This facilitates discovery beyond temporary PR wins.

Optimizing content for SEO builds permanent equity. Integrate media coverage and influencer content to multiply search visibility. Study analytics to identify high-performing topics and gaps. Adopt an always-on content mentality spanning public relations strategies and tactics.

PR Software

Hundreds of tools now exist to support PR efforts. Leaders like Cision and Meltwater offer robust media monitoring capabilities. But many options beyond these giants can meet specialized needs. Evaluate providers based on features like analytics, targeting, relationship mapping, and monitoring scope. Weigh costs against potential benefits. Partner with the provider(s) whose platform best equips your team to execute strategies efficiently.


PR teams must avoid operating in silos in today’s complex media landscape. Actively collaborate across marketing departments to unlock synergies from united efforts. A rising tide raises all boats – the collective impact is greater when teams row together. Break down walls and bridge gaps through open communication, knowledge sharing, and relationship building. Shared goals, coordinated campaigns, and combined insights strengthen overall PR performance.

Crisis Management

Crises are inevitable – proactive preparation is mandatory. Every PR strategy must incorporate crisis plans outlining rapid response protocols, designated spokespeople, holding statements, scenarios, and simulations. When a crisis strikes, speed is paramount. Have teams ready to strategically engage media, control the narrative, and provide key facts and updates. Liaising with legal and leadership teams is crucial. The immediate response can determine long-term reputation impact. Plan thoroughly for the unexpected – and stay ready to act.


PR campaigns require defined timelines to maintain momentum and drive results. However, adaptability is equally important in the dynamic media landscape. Leave room to pivot and capitalize on real-time trends or insert brands into breaking news stories. Adhere to deadlines for core strategies but remain nimble to respond to opportunities as they arise. Communicate timeframes across teams and agencies, but recognize PR requires a hybrid model balancing structure with fluidity to get ahead.


A PR budget must account for many line items like staffing, agencies, software, events, and awards submissions. While PR focuses on “earned” media, programs still require investment. Determine costs for executing strategies, monitoring coverage, expanding capabilities, and proving value. Make data-driven decisions on resource allocation. Weigh trade-offs to maximize impact for every dollar spent. Budget realistically for execution while demonstrating efficiency, optimization, and return on investment.

Final Thoughts: Data-Driven PR Strategy

Integrating data and analytics into public relations will help you go from “hoping” to “knowing” that your PR strategy will make an impact and deliver results. First, it will give you the insights to push back to your CEO when they ask for coverage in the New York Times. It will help you prioritize your PR strategy to focus only on the top business media outlets that deliver business value. Finally, it will help fine-tune your messaging to ensure it aligns with the media narrative.

Data will make you look like a media rockstar when you present your PR media strategy at the next QBR and show all the fantastic coverage and results.

Building a data-driven PR strategy takes time. It requires strategy alignment, stellar execution, and a solid measurement approach. I hope you enjoyed this content. I do my best to create actionable content and provide value to the work you do. For reference, we put together this influencer marketing eBook to help you identify new ways to integrate influencers into your PR strategy.

Here’s my HOT take

The article lays down the gospel truth for PR pros. It’s all about embracing data-driven storytelling, mastering the narrative, being as agile as a newsroom on election night, and not putting all your eggs in the earned media basket. And oh, the dreamy scenario of launching a PR strategy while sipping wine and awaiting a torrent of results is just that, a dream. The nitty-gritty of PR is a tad more complex and much less serene, with a dash of crisis management to keep things spicy!


What’s the difference between a PR campaign and a PR strategy?

A PR campaign is short-term. It has a start date and an end date. It’s usually tied to a product launch, event, or specific announcement. A PR strategy always incorporates data and analytics to measure results. A well-executed media strategy should result in an uptick in your company’s business objectives, leading to increased sales leads/revenue, positive brand awareness, and thought leadership in your industry.

What are some tips on integrating data into a public relations media strategy?

You must set clear objectives and associated metrics to measure your PR efforts against specific business goals. Also, use the same key performance indicators for short-term and long-term success. For example, if your goal leads/revenue, tie media mentions and coverage to that.

How do you prioritize PR activities?

Mainly through data but also with brand impact metrics. For example, you should be able to measure the number of industry influencers reading your media placements, blog posts, or local media coverage. Or look at website traffic/conversions for content published on your site. Then, use those metrics to prioritize where you allocate your budget to PR campaigns.

Is writing a press release still an excellent public relations strategy?

Yes. It’s still important to promote your company and brand through the wire. For example, you should write a new press release whenever you have a product launch or if your CEO delivers a keynote speech at a major industry event. However, it’s best to use actionable insights from PR software to track the readership of the media outlets that write about your business.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.