Using data to tell stories

Using data to tell stories

The Guardian’s global investigation into Uber has been dominating headlines this week after its former chief lobbyist in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Mark MacGann, leaked 124,000 documents on the ubiquitous ride-hailing service – from emails, memos, and iMessages to briefing papers, presentations, and notebooks.

The leaked records span 2013-2017, the period in which Uber was aggressively expanding across the world. They divulge how the company broke the law, bypassed police and regulators, exploited violence against drivers, and lobbied governments behind the scenes.

For those on both sides of the PR and journalist fence, data is the key to understanding what is going on, who is impacted, and how to tell that story in the most impactful way.

Data is king

Data journalism has been a staple part of the news cycle for the best part of 20 years. From 9/11, to the London Riots, to government spending during the pandemic, media outlets gather and source data to inform their stories. The Guardian was one of the first national newspapers to embrace data in its journalism with the foundation of its ‘Datablog’, because, in its own words: ‘Numbers tell a story words can’t’ – whether that is tracking the shifting landscape of Manchester’s poorest children or digging into the leaked Afghanistan war logs.

Quality and timely data is an essential part of any good PR arsenal too. It can be leveraged to dominate a breaking story, used to support live interviews, and woven into press releases and opinion articles to reinforce insights and trends. It can also be the difference between getting your pitch picked up by a journalist, as opposed to cast aside with the rest of the junk that clutters the inbox of every newsdesk.

A recent example came for our client Pexco Aerospace, which specialises in manufacturing parts for aircraft interiors. For the past two years, the firm has been busy developing AirShield, an air management system that, research shows, reduces shared air particles between neighbouring passengers by 76 percent. Additional survey results also found that 89 percent of passengers feel more comfortable travelling on a plane with Pexco’s AirShield installed, suggesting increased appetite among flyers for cleaner cabin air in the wake of Covid-19.

At XL, we create engaging pitches that get cut-through – and data plays an important role in ensuring that. Whether we obtain it from established sources like the ONS, or generate it ourselves through national/industry surveys, our clients have felt the positive impact this approach has on the media coverage and the messaging within it.

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