When I first started out in Digital PR just over a year ago I had no idea how big a part data would play in campaigns, I hadn’t even considered that it was something I would have to come to grips with (and quickly).
I’m not afraid to admit that I got a C in my maths GCSE and can remember next to nothing from my I.C.T A-Level – in which I thought the Excel formulas that were drilled into me would stay with me for a lifetime, however they didn’t.
It turns out though, that you don’t really need to be that good at maths to work with data because 1) there’s a formula for everything and 2) Google is just a tab away – and that two years I spent creating booking and ordering systems at A-Level weren’t that relevant anyway.
Finding, creating, and analyzing data doesn’t have to be intimidating, no matter what level you’re at, however, there are a number of steps you can take to make your data easier.
Know Your Sources
Data first and foremost, has to be reliable and consistent – if you don’t think you can trust a data source, don’t use it. Some of the most popular data sources are:
- Government statistic sites, e.g ONS, YouGov, or Census.gov)
- Statista (Looking at the sources for stats on Statista is also a great way to find more reliable sources)
- Freedom of Information requests
- Review sites such as Trip Advisor, GlassDoor, and Comparably for data and insights on public opinion.
Shout Bravo’s founder Hana spoke at BrightonSEO back in September on the topic of finding data for your campaigns and didn’t leave us short of data sources, her deck has sites to find data on anything, and I mean anything you can think off.
Know Your Idea
Whilst data can be a great source of inspiration for campaigns, before really deep-diving into finding data for your campaign – especially if you’re creating your own data sets, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my idea? Try to have as solid a concept as possible before starting.
- Is it feasible? Does the data exist?
- Do I have enough data to create a campaign around?
Angles and further ideas can of course develop as you’re collecting and analyzing your data, but having a solid idea beforehand gives you an idea of what data you’re looking for and how to make more sense of the likely huge data sets you’re going to download.
Making sure the data exists and there’s enough of it is also key – always make sure that you know the data is there before pitching it to your teammates and clients, and that there’s enough of it for a campaign – the only thing worse than falling in love with an idea then realizing the data isn’t readily available, is getting halfway through collecting the data before realizing that there isn’t as much as you initially thought.
Clean & Organise Your Data
Working with data sets from the likes of ONS, other government bodies, or even clients’ internal data means sometimes you’re left looking at huge data sets, with most columns and rows irrelevant to what you’re actually working on.
This is why it’s so important to have a pretty decent understanding of your idea from the start and where you want it to go – it makes it so much easier to cut out any parts of the data set that isn’t relevant or that you don’t think you need, making the data you do need much more digestible and far less overwhelming.
Learning how to add filters and pivot tables is also key to organizing your data and extracting angles. Filters are great if you’re creating the likes of ranking tables, whilst pivot tables are great for breaking down huge sets of data that would otherwise take almost a full day’s work just to scroll through.
Analyzing & Presenting Your Data
As I mentioned above, tools such as filters and pivot tables are great for not only organizing data – but analyzing it too. I personally tend to extract angles by playing around with the filter functions and taking the top 5, top 10 ect and looking if there are any patterns or anything we can write about.
However, I also know that some of us here might be fans more of visual analysis and presentation – if you’re looking to create graphs from your data, Google Sheets and Excel now automatically suggest the best type of graph for the data you’ve selected – which is great for not only analyzing the data and seeing if there is anything you’ve missed but making it simpler to understand for teammates and clients – especially if you’re turning your data into visuals for a campaign.
Whether you are a data expert or a data novice – I hope this gives you some inspiration on how to approach your next data-led campaigns!