The British public has probably seen more graphs in the last year than we ever thought we would see in a lifetime. After learning correlation in GCSE Maths, we thought that was it. Job done. No further use for the x and y axis. Yet Whitty and his slides have turned our attention back to the important role data is playing – quite literally – in the decisions that are governing our daily lives.
As a nation, we have suddenly become obsessed with figures. What is the R rate in my local area? How many people in 100,000 have COVID-19? What tier am I in? And it has become the mission of our media to deliver those answers.
The home pages of our news apps are no longer a selection of the ‘top stories’ but are topped with articles whose headlines look like they have been pulled straight out of Google’s top searches. Where is my nearest vaccine centre? What are the rules for my area? When will schools re-open?
Across broadcast, the old reliable Q&A format has raised its weathered head and spread its wings. At key points throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed a boost in radio phone-ins and TV audience Q&A segments with experts. The Q&A is one of the basic principles broadcast was built on, but opinion and debate who have dominated in the last few years seem to be taking a back seat to fact, at least for the time being.
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to Ben Munro-Davies, Executive Producer at Sky News. We discussed this sudden urgency for data and information, contemplating the important question of whether these functions and formats of journalism that have emerged out of this public demand are here to stay. Short answer: yes. Both on a reporting level and also in the way the likes of the BBC and Sky are revolutionising their news capabilities by building their data insight teams.
We have seen proof of this already as this form of journalism has started to infiltrate other stories on the agenda beyond health: What do the new Brexit rules mean for my business? How do I know if my company qualifies for government support? When will the economy recover?
The takeout therefore for PRs is – what part can brands and organisations play in this new space?
This week I was chatting to a journalist from the Sky News data team who asked if our client could offer insight into the cost and distance of an average journey to vaccine centres across the country, to strengthen an existing online article. This got the brain cogs whirring as I started to churn over the possibilities of whether there’s a new way in which we can start looking at how we work with the media. Could we look at the existing ‘top searches’ and offer data-driven insights to these issues that the British public are craving intel on? This is where the internal brainstorming started, and then the web of opportunities and possibilities stretched.
At a time where the COVID-19 crisis has set off an avalanche of questions (which this article has loyally and ironically stayed true to in its format) our news is turning to data, experts and information, and this is where brands should be focusing their efforts this year too.
2021 then is surely the time for brands to turn internally to audit their own data capabilities and what they might be able to offer of value in the form of data-driven insights. With many businesses already running established data functions, could this be one time where brands and organisations are ahead of the curve? Now wouldn’t that be interesting for 2021.
Written by Sarah Cann - Senior Account Manager at Broadcast Revolution - Broadcast PR Agency