How to Turn a Data Report Into Earned Media

5 min read


Developing original research can be a Herculean task. Data gathering often takes months— depending on the methodology—and writing a polished report can take a team of professionals dozens of hours.

After all that investment of time and resources, surely any organization would want to get the greatest number of eyeballs possible on the final result. The most effective way to turn original data into impressions is through an organized earned media strategy. The most successful data report releases employ marketing collateral, dedicated spokespeople, and a strong coalition of partners and stakeholders to maximize the reach of the data report in the media.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to use in preparation for a data report release.

What’s in the survey?!

Even the most riveting data reports are too long and too dense for editors to simply publish their findings in totality. Media outlets want to know what the big takeaways from the report are and how they can best interpret those findings for their readers. 

Work with your public relations and marketing teams to identify the principal takeaways and develop visual collateral—think charts, graphs, and infographics—necessary to explain the data to your various publics. Some journalists will be well-informed on the topic; national and trade reporters on a specific beat will have a deeper understanding of the research than a layman or the so-called “consumer media” marketed to a general audience. Different audiences require different levels of detail.

Each year, Well Done Marketing has assisted Katz, Sapper & Miller, along with several partners, in publicizing their Indiana Manufacturing Survey. In this year’s survey, the key takeaways were all about supply chain challenges, inflation, and talent retention. These three themes represent some of the biggest macroeconomic storylines being covered by the business press in 2022. The report relies on data, but its newsworthiness relies on its relationship to current press cycles. As such, Inside Indiana Business published an in-depth feature story on the survey, crediting the authors.

An offer they can’t refuse

Any time you’re looking to make a big splash in the media, consider pre-pitching the announcement under embargo. This simply means that without revealing the core takeaways from the report or the key data points, you reach out to a journalist and seek to get their agreement to review the findings without publishing them until a given time in the future. For data-driven reports, such a tactic is a necessity. By reaching out days or even weeks before the formal release of the report, your PR team can consult with a small group of top journalists about the forthcoming data and provide more context and even interviews with researchers before the agreed-upon time and date the story can be released to the public.

To agree to the embargo, some journalists might ask for a degree of exclusivity. This is always at the discretion of the source, and offering exclusive rights to the story may or may not limit your options to pitch the data more broadly at the time of release. Typically, granting exclusivity to an outlet like The New York Times or Forbes is useful in securing coverage in this highest echelon of top-tier publications. If the primary audience for the research is more specific or local, however, forgoing more coverage in publications like Modern Healthcare or The Indianapolis Star could be too high a price for one top-tier piece of coverage.

We’re gonna need a bigger media list

Once launch day has arrived and all embargos and offers of exclusivity have lifted, it’s time to get the data out to as many outlets as possible. A press release should announce the major findings and include quotes from the author(s) of the study, along with further commentary from other stakeholders like industry experts or elected officials. 

Have your PR team target a master list of journalists who could potentially cover the report or use the data in future stories. A newswire distribution of the press release can assist with SEO and lead generation, though the quality of individual wire stories is often quite low.

After you send the release, one way to amplify the impact of a data release is to equip stakeholders and partner organizations with your data and break down the information conveniently for their membership. They can drive further stories about the data or simply share media coverage via their own social media as it rolls in.

Don’t put data in the corner

To prolong the relevance of the data report, it’s important to tie the data to a broader conversation already in the headlines. For example, over the last several years in Indiana, healthcare prices have surged. The 2022 RAND 4.0 Hospital Price Transparency Study, presented by our client, Employers’ Forum of Indiana, was published amid widespread speculation about the legislative response to high prices and hospital consolidation.  

Though the report was released in May 2022, and media outlets as diverse as Fortune and the Indianapolis Business Journal already covered the initial release, the data’s relevance in the ongoing negotiations between healthcare providers and elected officials in Indiana will provide a number of future opportunities for thought leadership.

You also can leverage the collateral developed in the takeaway phase and repurpose key numbers for reactive pitching in the weeks and months to come. HARO and Qwoted opportunities frequently call for thought leadership or specific expertise, and nothing more easily establishes credibility than authorship of meaningful original research on a subject. Reporters always need data, and whether there is time for an interview or not, there may be an opportunity to use your data again. Boilerplate quotes explaining the key takeaways from the report will make quick-turn requests from reporters no problem at all.

If you build it, they will come

Given the amount of energy and time required to conduct original research, it’s important to get value out of that research on the back end. With diligent preparation, communication with partner organizations, and dogged follow up, it’s possible to turn data into earned media again and again.