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Mine Your Own Data To Make News

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November 23,2010

By Jerry Brown, APR

If you have data about an interesting trend, you may be able to turn it into news.

If you work for a university, for example, are students enrolling in different classes today than they were five, 10 or 20 years ago? Has the average age of the student body changed? Are more working adults taking classes? If so, how are they paying for it? Each of these questions leads to a potential story, if you have interesting data to share.

That’s one set of examples, for one kind of organization. There are many others. What are yours? Mine the data available to you and frame it into information relevant to your audience. Then find a reporter who writes for that audience. And you’ve got a good shot at making news.

You also need a news hook, a reason for the media to write your story now. Our mythical university might pitch its story in the fall as students are returning to school, in the spring when prospective students are applying for admission or as a job-trends story at graduation time.

Don’t have any newsworthy data? Conduct a survey. It can be serious or whimsical as long as it’s interesting. Whimsical is easier. On serious issues, reporters will be skeptical of surveys commissioned by anyone with a vested interest in the results.

Some examples of surveys that have made news:

  • A National Cattleman’s Association survey claiming 73 percent of Americans grill beef on Memorial Day.
  • An H&R Block survey asking kids questions about taxes, things like who pays more taxes Batman or Superman?
  • And I once had a client who asked cell phone users how likely they were to answer their phone if it rang in various places, including church. The client was reluctant at first to include the question about church, but that was the one that sold the story because most of us react to the absurdity of someone actually answering their phone there.
  • Take a look at your data. You may have some great stories there just waiting to be told.


During 20 years as a journalist, Jerry Brown worked for The Associated Press (he was assignment editor for AP’s Washington bureau during Watergate); daily newspapers in Little Rock, Fort Worth and Denver; the U.S. Information Agency; and two trade publications. Jerry’s been practicing public relations for the past two decades and is an accredited member (APR) of the Public Relations Society of America and a former board member of PRSA’s Colorado chapter. You can contact Jerry at or visit his Web site at

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