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What Analytics Taught Us about Public Relations

A quote attributed to Winston Churchill, perhaps incorrectly, “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”  In this day of social media and instant communications this is even more true.  Companies put great effort into monitoring, understanding, and to the extent possible, controlling the impact of (usually negative) publicity.

In the early days of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, First Analytics was engaged to help public relations departments in large global companies, or PR consulting agencies, understand how they could use analytics to understand the impact of public relations.  Here are some examples of the things we learned:


  •  For one company, 71% of the time, there is no lasting impact to sales of an event, though there may be an initial blip.  Therefore, a strategy is to not immediately overreact to a perceived crisis.
  • When there is an impact, we can use econometric models to estimate lost sales.
  • We can classify patterns of how trends develop and evolve over the first few days and weeks of a crisis.  This helps us understand, earlier on, the trajectory of the event.
  • Social media “listeners” are unreliable as an early warning system.  In fact, by the time a trigger alert is issued, somebody in the company already knows about it.
  • Corporate earnings can, in some cases, be impacted by publicity, but the impact varies substantially by corporation.  Some are more resilient to publicity than others, by a quantifiable amount.
  • With the right kind of data, public relations can be incorporated into marketing mix attribution models as “unearned media.”  This allows for attribution of sales volume changes, although mostly beyond the company’s control.

We have been told that PR professionals would be among the last to catch on to the power of advanced analytics.  But there are many who now do and are benefiting to a quantitative approach to an otherwise intuition-based and soft skills profession.

For more information, see some of our use cases:

Public Affairs Crisis Management, Quantifying the Effect of Public Relations on Corporate Earnings, Using Social Media for Business Decisions, Incorporating New Media into Marketing Mix Models

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