When It Comes to Social Data, Tell a Story

If you’ve been paying attention to trends in measurement and analytics, you’ve likely heard the phrase big data, which is this utopian concept that describes the extraordinary amount of data that exists in our hyperconnected world. This amount of data also presents organizations with the opportunity to translate it into actionable insight. It’s a great concept, but it often challenges public relations professionals that are already trying to mine the seemingly unlimited social data and present it in a meaningful way.

One of the biggest mistakes PR professionals make is overthinking social data. With the often unmanageable amount of data we now have from Facebook Insights, Twitter analytics, social monitoring tools like Radian6 and Sysomos and more, it becomes easier to have a lack of focus.

So, where do you start? When it comes to telling a story with the data, adopt the principles established by journalism: tell a story by answering who, what, where, when and why. Using this framework can help you tell a story that will help make a more meaningful impact with your clients and bosses. You can apply the five Ws framework to social media monitoring reports, social channel reports (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), trends and industry reports and other vehicles for delivering social data.

Below are the key components for each section when telling a story with data:


In every good story, there is a cast of characters that you follow. In social data, these characters comprise your target audience. Reports should answer who is talking about your brand and what their character traits are. Knowing the audience and understanding different demographic information can help you and your clients be more informed about who your social audience is.


What is your audience saying? What are the topics of conversation? Providing context and more qualitative analysis can add a sort of plot line to the story you’re trying to tell with the data. The answers to “what” can be social metrics around brand sentiment, the level of penetration when it comes to key messages or a breakdown of what the topics include.


One of the most important questions your data can answer is from where the data is coming. Understanding which platforms are hosting social conversations about your clients can help inform where future marketing dollars should go. For instance, if you’re spending your entire budget on Facebook, but your social monitoring reveals a large amount of conversation occurring on discussion forums, it would be reevaluating where your marketing dollars are going.


In a story, timing is often a key element that impacts how the story plays out. This is also true with social data – cadence and scheduling can help drive more impact for your clients. For instance, if you have a food brand and your social data reveals that the majority of social conversations are happening late at night, consider adjusting your content and social community management to reflect this.


This question is perhaps the most difficult to answer. Who, what, where and when are mostly observations that can be made, but answering why requires higher level of analysis. When building out your story, always ask why for each observation you make. Having a clear understanding of the psychology behind the data can help you pull more meaningful insight.

Working in PR, you probably never thought you would be leveraging similar traits to authors and storytellers. However, translating all of the data that goes across your computer screen into an easily digestible story can help you demonstrate value for your clients.


Nick Lucido

Nick Lucido joined Edelman as an intern in May 2009 and is currently an account executive within Edelman Digital. Lucido is a member of the firm’s digital strategy team, providing online conversation research, measurement analysis and strategic insights for clients in a variety of industries. He is the PRSA New Professionals Section PRSSA liaison.

Five Lessons for Integrating Social Media in PR

I remember being a junior in college and setting up a blog for a class assignment. At the time, blogging was still a new form of communication for our industry (wow, that makes me sound old!), and I remember wondering when I was going to use it. Little did I know, blogging and using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter would become part of my everyday job.

As public relations professionals, we strive to find the best medium for distributing our key messages to target audiences. We are challenged with making our messages succinct, timely and transparent. And with social media, our job really is no different. Social media is just another tool in our kit that doesn’t necessarily replace traditional media but instead complements it. In fact, when done correctly, social media is treated as a channel rather than a tactic.

I’ve learned five lessons in my career about social media’s role in our profession:

  •  Don’t set out looking for a job in ‘social media public relations.’ I think every practitioner should have a working knowledge of the platforms that exist and how they can potentially apply to client strategies. It’s part of our job to know all the communication tools out there regardless of whether your title has social media in it or not. Yes, I leave Twitter and Facebook open all day. That doesn’t mean I’m on it every minute, but it needs to be easily accessible to make sure nothing is missed. For me, it’s just like having my email open. Plus, you never know when a reporter is going to post that they are looking for a source. Trust me, it will happen!
  • Social media is constantly evolving. Whether it’s a new photo sharing site or changes to the way brand managers get Facebook Insights, there always seems to be something new to learn. Don’t ever grow overconfident in your social media skills.
  • Try new things. When I hear of a new site, I usually try to use it on a personal level before trying to incorporate it into any campaigns. This step would be the research part of the RPIE process. You wouldn’t start a campaign without research, and you wouldn’t jump into social media for a brand without doing that research. Using it personally will give you great insight into how a user will be viewing and interacting with your brand.
  • Listen, listen, listen and then listen some more. If you don’t listen, then you really shouldn’t have a presence on these sites. People want to interact with your brand, and they want to be heard. It takes time to build the relationships, but it’s worth it in the end. After all, the goal for using this channel should be dialogue and engagement.      How can you accomplish that without listening?
  • Be careful what you say. Given the real-time nature, it’s easy to want to respond quickly. However, it’s  important to think through your response and even have someone do a quick review of it before posting. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.

How are you using social media in your postition? What other things should new professionals know about social media’s role in our profession?


Christina MortonChristina Morton is an account executive at Fry Hammond Barr, a national advertising, public relations and interactive marketing agency that’s been connecting people and brands for more than 50 years. Fry Hammond Barr has offices in Orlando and Tampa.

Trust Your Gut: and Other Advice for Graduating Seniors

It’s that time of year again! The class of 2012 is graduating college and entering the PR workforce. Most new professionals have spent a few years in the industry and have learned more than a few lessons from both our successes and mistakes, on the job and during the job search.

We asked our Twitter followers and Facebook fans what they wish they had known when they graduated–the bits of advice they would bestow on seniors so their professional careers can start off on a great note. Here’s what they had to say:

“@PRSANewPros You already bring a unique and generational perspective to the table. Be confident in your skills and in yourself #PRadvice” Door24Agency2 via Twitter

“@PRSANewPros Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make the call!” Justin Lax via Twitter

“Finally updated #LinkedIn and am cleaning up my resume. It’s always a good idea to keep fresh on the #professional profile. #PRadvice #HAPPO” Amanda B. Nguyen via Twitter

“Make the most of any job opportunity. You never know where it can lead!” Jeanne Cardin Kurasz via Facebook

“Have a detailed, public LinkedIn account. I was found through a recruiter for my current employer. Also, a strong, versatile portfolio showcasing STRONG writing. Best pieces of advice I could ever offer anyone looking to get into PR.” Marysa Falk via Facebook

‎”1. Trust your gut. Don’t take the first job offer you receive if it doesn’t feel right. 2. Your first job probably will not be your dream position, and that’s okay. You still have 40+ years left to find it. Instead of focusing on finding your dream job, pursue an opportunity that aligns with your career goals and helps you learn and grow as a professional.” Rebecca Odell via Facebook

“@PRSANewPros Brand yourself online, and make sure your #socialmedia presence aligns with your professional profile. #PRadvice #HAPPO” Amanda B. Nguyen via Twitter‏

“@PRSANewPros Be prepared to start at the bottom. Don’t be afraid of #networking your way up! #PRadvice” Nicole White via Twitter

“@prsanewpros Make sure to evaluate the environment/culture before you accept a job. It’s just as important as the actual position. #PRadvice” Jenn Cartmille via Twitter

“Ask a ton of questions, save successful campaign examples & practice writing RT @PRSANewPros PR for graduating seniors? #PRadvice” Bethany Rae Cramer via Twitter


Good luck to the Class of 2012!

Summer Book Club–June: UnMarketing Discussion

“If you believe business is built on relationships, make building them your business.”  That, in a nutshell, is what defines “UnMarketing”. 

Why do marketers, in a world where consumers strive to fast forward through commercials and place their phone numbers on “do not call” lists, continue to use old ways of marketing that they themselves detest?  “Why do we market to people the way we hate to be marketed to?” asks author Scott Stratten.

Enter UnMarketing: a new way of marketing based on creating connections, building relationships and continually providing value to your contacts using traditional media and social media outlets.  Stratten urges us to “Stop marketing. Start engaging.”

One of the biggest ways Stratten suggests to build relationships with consumers is by positioning yourself, or your company, as an expert in your field.  “When you position yourself as an expert with useful information for people, your marketplace will always have a need for that information,” says Stratten.  Therefore, if a consumer does not currently have use for your product, they will still be interested in communicating with you based on the knowledge you have to share.

So, you have knowledge to share and a few contacts to share with.  Stratten recommends building a social media platform.  With social media tools expanding at what seem like an exponential rate, one cannot possibly use every service.  Stratten suggests starting small.  Pick one place, be it Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, and invest your time in it until you build a strong following.  Stratten outlines three steps to successfully build your platform:

1. Build traction: be consistent with your updates and spread them out over the week.  Share information and respond to others’ updates.  Create a presence.

2. Build momentum: focus on strengthening the connections you have instead of only increasing followers.  Take your conversation to another level, like meeting face-to-face at conferences or Tweetups.

3. Expand: in order to take your relationships to the next level, grow your platform to other social media sites to better engage with your connections. 

Once you have followers, it becomes important to keep your followers.  Every communication should focus on creating valuable content and keeping your followers’ trust.  Stratten emphasizes that one mediocre experience can lead a customer to shop around elsewhere:  “One of the things companies need to realize is that they are only as good as the weakest experience of their customer.  Many businesses are guilty of creating a great experience to get a first sale from you, but are really bad at keeping that level of service going.” 

Stratten describes this “Experience Gap” as the space between the best services and the worst experience a customer receives.  Every business should strive for the smallest Experience Gap because other companies can sneak in through the cracks.

Because no company can afford gaps in trust or experience, the most important rule to follow is to be authentic and transparent.  Being authentic means being yourself.  When you stop trying to be your competitor and start showing what makes you different, you play to your strengths and position yourself for success.  Being transparent means being honest.  Honesty is just a good business rule to follow anyway, and it helps keep the trust of your customers.

These concepts merely scratch the surface of UnMarketing, but they demonstrate that Stratten believes engagement and sincere relationships are the foundation for any business that can no longer be ignored.

Share your thoughts on UnMarketing below!

  1. What did you agree with and why? What did you disagree with?
  2. Stratten provided the advantages and disadvantages for each social media outlet like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Have you found a favorite site to engage with your customers?  Are there any pros or cons you would add to any of the site?
  3. UnMarketing featured an entire section on viral marketing.  Have you found success with a viral video? How did you handle the loss of control? How did you connect beyond number of views?
  4. Stratten provides helpful tips to connect with consumers using more traditional means of marketing like tradeshows, newsletters and seminars.  What other ways are you creating conversation beyond social media?  Do you think our society still finds value in traditional media?
  5. Networking is either your biggest fear or your greatest ally as a new professional.  We’ve all seen the “Card Collector” and all strive to be the “Great One”.  Stratten suggests listening to others, being yourself and enjoying the conversation, not just seeing the event as a glorified business card exchange.  What suggestions do you have for other new pros learning how to network? 
  6. What is the most valuable lesson you will take away from this book? Any specific ideas you will adopt?

Stay tuned for the announcement of our July Summer Book Club read!

Summer Book Club–June: UnMarketing

Returning this year to the PRSA New Pros Blog is the Summer Book Club.  Thanks to all who tweeted and voted, the Summer Book Club has its first PR read for June—UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging. by Scott Stratten!  So visit your local bookstore, download it onto your Kindle or borrow it from a friend, but get your copy today and start reading.

Discussion surrounding UnMarketing starts the first week of July.  Check back with the PRSA New Pros blog, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to join in the conversation.

Here’s what amazon.com has to say about UnMarketing:

From one of the leading experts in viral and social marketing-market your business effectively to today’s customers

For generations, marketing has been hypocritical. We’ve been taught to market to others in ways we hate being marketed to (cold-calling, flyers, ads, etc.). So why do we still keep trying the same stale marketing moves?

UnMarketing shows you how to unlearn the old ways and consistently attract and engage the right customers. You’ll stop just pushing out your message and praying that it sticks somewhere. Potential and current customers want to be listened to, validated, and have a platform to be heard-especially online. With UnMarketing, you’ll create such a relationship with your customers, and make yourself the logical choice for their needs.

  • Shows how to create a mindset and systems to roll out a new, 21st century marketing approach
  • Marketing expert Scott Stratten focuses on a Pull & Stay method (pulling your market towards you and staying/engaging with them, leading them to naturally choose you for their needs) rather than Push & Pray
  • Redefines marketing as all points of engagement between a company and its customers, not just a single boxed-in activity

Traditional marketing methods are leading to diminishing returns and disaffected customers. The answer? Stop marketing, start UnMarketing!

New Pros: What are you hoping to learn from this book?  What specific topics would you like to see in our discussion?

Whether you are spending your summer laying on the beach or traveling for business, make sure you bring along your copy of UnMarketing!