Data Mining: How to Find PR & Communications Gold in Your Data

“There’s gold in them thar hills.”  We’re not talking Bitcoin mining.  We’re talking about buried gold in a company’s data. 

All too often companies don’t recognize they are sitting on treasure.  As with mining in the real world, finding hidden value requires an investment and, more often than not, a fresh pair of eyes and a prospector's experience.   




Sometimes the gold is in full view and simply unrecognized because the leadership of a company is focused on other things.  A prospector - a corporate communications professional, consultant or agency - can also miss it because they simply weren’t asked to or didn’t look. 


Takeaway #1:  If you don’t look for PR or communications value in your data, you won’t find gold

Without a good reason to look - few companies or communicators have the time to go prospecting - the hidden value of data may not be uncovered.  Making the value of a data strike clear by outlining the potential return on investment with relevant examples is key for communicators to encourage business leaders to invest the time to mine.    


Takeaway #2:  If you don’t know what you are looking for, you won’t find gold

Since we all see in dimensions – communicators see PR dimensions to an issue and business leaders will look at data through a revenue lens – identifying value for business or PR purposes may depend upon who is looking.  It’s important for communicators to provide miners (business leaders, line managers, technologists or others) the information they need to dig out rich opportunities.        


Takeaway #3:  If you are looking in the wrong place, you won’t find gold

It is important to understand the “geology” of a company from a data perspective.  Businesses which have data at their core are obvious and fertile data mining territory.  But this is too limiting.  Any business that generates data which offers insights into markets or trends may have unrealized data potential.  Thousands of sensors built into a turbine may provide insights that go far beyond the ability to predict when a part may need to be replaced.  


Takeaway #4:  Sometimes we need to turn the binoculars around to see the opportunity

As an example, the business model of a retirement data company in the financial industry was to calculate retirement costs on an individual basis.  With a communicators’ perspective, I suggested we create national averages and an index relevant to all future retirees.  By changing how we looked at and presented the data, this company's story was covered by the Wall Street Journal and other major media.


Takeaway #5:  All that glitters may not be gold, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value

When mining for data it’s important to be realistic about whether it can be used to achieve a company’s communications goals.  When evaluating the potential ROI of the exercise, we need to recognize that even if the data uncovered won’t work for the media, the insights derived from it may still have significant value for a business' strategy or client engagement.           


Takeaway #6:  For data to have value it needs to provide insights

The value of gold is not in the metal itself, but in the value others place in it.  The same is true for data.  It is not the information that is inherently precious, it is the insights it provides others.  This is where a communicator's assessment of the data pool, its applicability and relevance as a benchmark for audience behavior or trends will be invaluable to determining media and client interest.   


Takeaway #7:  If the data is relevant to the media, it will likely be relevant to clients

Having mined data that’s relevant for the media, it’s important to leverage it across audiences to achieve desired goals.  This will generate the maximum return on investment for the company and corporate communications professionals or agency.  Again, since business leaders and communications professionals will look at the data through different lenses, it’s essential to discuss collectively the ways in which it can be used across the company.


If you don’t look for or know how to look for unrealized value in the data in your business, you won’t find it.  It’s that simple. 

For companies engaging PR or communications firms, a discussion of the type of information you may have but haven't thought about as a communications asset is time well spent.

For agencies, a systematic process to audit and identify opportunities to leverage data may bring significant rewards to both parties.  And, if there’s no 'there' in terms of data, conducting research to essentially make gold becomes the next logical step.  


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist and engage communications agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size.  The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video.  Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.           

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