The Importance of Data Visualization

Many communications and PR professionals take advantage of media monitoring and analysis to gain insight into their strategies and boost the effectiveness of PR campaigns. With all the data generated by media monitoring at your disposal, using data visualizations to illustrate insights can maximize the return on your efforts.

What is Data Visualization?  

Data visualization is the communication of data and information using charts, graphs, diagrams, and other infographics. Visuals make data and text easier to digest by taking different learning styles and approaches into consideration and helping to convey content as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Exasol head of business intelligence Eva Murray shared her experience with how visuals have helped to avoid confusion on her team by quickly creating a shared understanding. Many times in her career, she’d found herself in a situation whereby her team talked around the same subject but failed to establish shared definitions, processes, and priorities. Murray said, “I learned early on that simply drawing a diagram on a whiteboard can prevent these long-lasting discussions and achieve a consensus quickly.”

By establishing a shared understanding, graphics allow everyone to participate in the discussion where misinterpretations of data have been known to derail key conversations about media strategy.

Why is Data Visualization Important?

Data visualization is important because it simplifies the task of communicating many small data points as well as large, abstract concepts.

The Harvard Business Review explains that the old mindset of data visualization, or ‘DataViz,’ as a “nice-to-have skill” is outdated. Now, “visual communication is a must-have skill for all managers, because more and more often, it’s the only way to make sense of the work they do.”

As public relations and communications become increasingly data-reliant fields, the importance of being able to visualize information is immense.

Data visualizations allow your team to look at a data set of thousands of media mentions and quickly identify trends, outliers, and patterns. According to Tableau, “data visualization tools and technologies are essential to analyze massive amounts of information and make data-driven decisions.”

Tableau further stresses the value of colorful, visually attractive graphics and their role in helping communicators to internalize data narratives: “If you’ve ever stared at a massive spreadsheet of data and couldn’t see a trend, you know how much more effective a visualization can be.”

When using visualizations, you can use the principles of design to convey information more clearly and effectively.

How Does Visualizing Data Improve Decision-Making?

Data visualization can improve decision-making by making sense of large data sets in a format that humans can better comprehend. The Harvard Business Review explains, “decision-making increasingly relies on data, which comes at us with such overwhelming velocity, and in such volume, that we can’t comprehend it without some layer of abstraction, such as a visual one.”

Turning large data sets into different forms of digestible material also helps to isolate and highlight important information for communicators. Graphics can make trends and outliers stand out, so it is easier to identify patterns, top influencers, champion outlets, key regions, etc. than if you were looking at a spreadsheet. This is the information that creates actionable insights and provides clear direction to your media strategy.

But the value does not end there.

Data Visualization and Reporting

Once you have identified valuable media opportunities, you can leverage graphics to present your work to company executives. When demonstrating the value of your team’s work (and justifying your department’s budget), conveying information clearly is essential.

Similar to how visuals can help you understand key data, they can also help you to explain the narrative. Forbes reminds us that a picture is worth a thousand words and data visualizations are no exception.

For example, check out this chart of news coverage by volume, sharing, and tone and imagine trying to succinctly explain this information to a room full of executives without the supporting visuals. Most communicators would find this task to be quite challenging.

Given the level of detail included, this chart is the best format for the job. It shows both the nitty-gritty details and the big picture, enabling viewers to draw the same conclusions and engage in further discussion about the data.

Forbes advises starting all discussions with shared understanding to remove barriers to participation. A data visualization that gets everybody onto the same page, “provides an opportunity to find agreement, discuss changes, and create solutions and improvements.” This offers a significant advantage when making decisions as a team or reporting to executives and demonstrating your value.

How to Use Data Visualization in Your Media Analytics Strategy

At PublicRelay, we utilize dozens of different visuals to convey media data effectively. Using Tableau, we create custom charts, maps, and graphs that highlight trends and outliers, making the information easier to consume.

Two infographics comparing reputational drivers of volume and tone

Volume and Tone of Coverage

Coverage volume and tone form the backbone of any good media monitoring program. As a result, these metrics appear repeatedly in media analysis. Rather than opting for a basic bar graph to communicate this data, these metrics can be reimagined as the size and color of a bubble on a plot chart and can include additional information like sharing data. There are a multitude of engaging ways to manipulate and visualize volume and tone.

comparing the volume of articles written and impressions shared for each author

Outlet and Author Coverage

After volume and tone, outlet and author information can be some of the most helpful metrics for providing actionable insights. This data can help your team pivot your strategy to ensure that you’re pitching your key messages to the right people. In this instance, bar or line graphs can extend off the page or include dozens of overlapping trend lines that make it impossible to glean any insight from the data. To illustrate this information, we often create charts in which the outlet or author is a bubble or point on a scatter plot. Bubbles can also display more detailed information in the form of their color, size, gradient, and placement.

Social sharing

Social sharing can be demonstrated using bar charts, bubbles, lines – you name it! Often, we like to compare sharing data to article volume because this can tell you which topics generate natural interest among your target audience. It is also helpful to pair sharing data with outlet and author metrics, so you can identify the influencers that generate the most social engagement.

Geographic Coverage

Geographic data allows us to share information about where news coverage is coming from, typically based on the locations of the outlets that originally published each article. Using infographics, we can show an article’s origin by country, region, state, or city, both on accurate cartographical maps and other, more abstract representations like bubble maps.

Increase Comprehension of Your Media Coverage

Data visualization can help you to make the most of your media monitoring and analytics programs. The value it provides to communicators lies in the shared understanding of complex concepts it enables, and the increased ability to identify trends and meaning from your data.

To learn more about how we use data visualization to turn media monitoring into media intelligence, click here.

ARTICLE AUTHOR
Sarah Kerman

Sarah Kerman

Media Analytics Account Manager
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