Data-driven research insights, especially when the research is complex and comprehensive, can be challenging to promote to a broad audience.
Gaining media cut-through requires organisations and their spokespeople to be highly effective communicators.
In this blog, we explore strategies to help achieve cut through and attract media attention for data-driven research, using the example of a recent BBS collaboration with leading national public policy advisors SGS Economics & Planning.
SGS engaged BBS in 2023 to promote their SGS Cities & Regions Wellbeing Index, Australia’s first regional scale wellbeing index looking at economic and social wellbeing.
The Index and interactive dashboard tracks 334 regions across Australia. The aim is to inform public policy, with SGS encouraging all levels of government, business and community organisations to use their free research tool for better decision making and investment.
Simplifying complex material
BBS Senior Account Manager Kathryn Britt said BBS’ first step on this media relations project was to get clarity on the target audience, so communication of research findings could be tailored accordingly.
While seeking a government and decision-maker audience, SGS also wanted local communities to be aware of and talking about the Index.
“Data-driven research can be perceived as dry or complex, making it difficult to capture media interest. However, by weaving a compelling narrative around your research findings, using key issues or trends that resonate with people, you can effectively engage journalists and the public,” Ms Britt said.
BBS distilled a 60-page research document down to a national media release and state-based fact sheets, turning complex data into easily understandable and newsworthy information nuggets for national, regional and local media.
Visual elements, such as charts, graphs, and infographics can help simplify complex data, making it easier for journalists and the public to understand and share.
When it comes to story pitching, it’s important to understand how the media operates. The Index highlights which communities need investment in order to improve wellbeing – and the client did not want a media narrative of “these are the great and terrible spots to live in Australia”.
BBS helped SGS understand that many fast response media would be looking to do a “top and bottom 10 locations in Australia” lists and worked with them on how to combat this narrative so the research was not sensationalised.
“This was achieved by making top/bottom 10 data only available to select sensitive media outlets so that it was not as susceptible to misinterpretation, and organising live radio interviews in regions that ranked lowly so that SGS’ economists could explain the purpose of the report and how local regions could use the research to seek more resources for their communities,” Ms Britt said.
Find broader audiences
Social media platforms offer a powerful avenue to amplify research findings and attract further attention and media coverage.
By leveraging platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, researchers can engage with journalists, influencers and the public, sparking conversations and generating interest in their work. SGS handled this social media content creation in-house, creating engaging content on their social platforms.
BBS guided SGS with advice on briefing members of parliament, especially those MPs in regions that scored poorly in the Index, so that they could use the research as funding ammunition and gain wider exposure for SGS’ research.
Are you media-ready?
It’s OK to gain media attention, but when you get your chance in the spotlight can you represent the research and your organisation in an appealing, compelling light?
BBS held media training sessions for key SGS spokespeople to ensure they could make the most of their media opportunities when the Index launched.
SGS’ Marketing and Communications lead Natalie Blanco said media training was a vital first step.
“After undergoing media training with BBS we developed a strong trust in their expertise. Their seamless coordination and efficient communication made the process of securing media coverage for our project smooth and rewarding,” Ms Blanco said.
BBS recorded sound bites of SGS spokespeople to distribute to time-poor radio news networks. This initiative resulted in some great media hits, and the client feedback was that it was also great preparation to have their spokespeople “on-message” for the raft of live and pre-recorded radio interview opportunities that were generated by BBS.
Working with SGS’ talented spokespeople on likely media questions allowed the spokespeople to prepare media commentary that remained true to the Index’s purpose AND was engaging for audiences.
The little things
Often it’s the little touches that polish a campaign.
BBS helped create a three-word descriptor for SGS, for use in media materials, so the media didn’t label them inaccurately. We offered suggestions for SGS to make their interactive Index dashboard of results more user-friendly. Finally, we created a visually appealing Index media release template for the client.
Securing media coverage for data-driven research requires strategic communication strategies.
By understanding the target audience and the media, crafting compelling narratives, using visualisations and infographics and harnessing social media, researchers can increase their chances of making an impact with their findings.
In a market heavily saturated with “wellbeing” surveys, the SGS campaign to date has recorded 140 media hits (and climbing), with coverage across Australia including national, metro and regional print and online media, TV news, radio news, live radio interviews and talkback radio discussion.
“BBS orchestrated an impressive media coverage campaign for our project. Their strategic planning and execution generated widespread attention and positive exposure. We’re still receiving media requests. Safe to say this has been a great success!” Ms Blanco said.