Free data and insight sources for your digital PR campaigns
By Thierry Ngutegure
9 min read
Wednesday, 22nd April 2020
Why should data be part of my digital PR strategy?
Whether it's your own data or that of someone else - content in media nearly always heavily relies on some form of data to tell a story. And you should too! PRs traditionally have used surveys to get insight into consumer behaviour, but surveys may have been overdone over the years, leaving editors and content marketers to look at other ways of gathering information.
However, in a world where trust in the media is low and fake is news everywhere, it’s more important than ever to make sure we use the most credible and reliable sources.
IPSOS Global advisor conducted a study into trust in the media, with 45% of Brits having little to no trust in the stories they read. This means we need to ensure we are providing something robust and reliable - data can make that happen.
What are the best free online data sources?
With the wealth of content, research and data out there it can become overwhelming to know where to start and who to trust. So we’ve pulled together the 15 best sources that we use to serve the foundations of our data-led
First things first, bookmark this blog to have all your go-to sources in one place. ⚡️🤟🏾🤓
Google Data Search
Google Dataset Search is a search tool that helps locate online data from credible sources. The tool gives you the ability to filter by date of the source, download format, usage rights, topics and whether it’s paid or free. When you’re not sure where to start with your research, you should start here.
- Make sure you set the filter option to free. It immediately lets you see if the information you’re after will need a budget to obtain straightway.
- Use the description of the top results to understand how your data is described by the people who produce it. “Vacant homes” become “Vacant dwellings” with a keen eye.
Office for National Statistics
Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK's largest independent producer of official statistics covering population, employment, business and community statistics.
- Sign up to their release calendar where you can select the type of data you’d be interested in seeing. You’ll then get an email the second the data is released or used in a report.
- The website is not user friendly so make sure you bookmark key pages, which will be updated with the newest data as time goes on - e.g. population or employment statistics.
- If the data isn’t split in the way you need, contact the bulletin curator (found on the right-hand side of the bulletin). They’ll point you to the correct section of the site or the next best source.
Google Trends analyses the popularity of search queries split by country, language and sectors. The tool allows you to compare up to 5 queries dating back to 2004, as well as providing their related searches and queries.
- The numbers shown on the graph are scaled on a range of 0 to 100, based on a topic’s proportion to all searches on all topics. So use these numbers to calculate percentage increases, instead of the stated number.
- Use the “year in search” section to understand the national search behaviour around events, TV programmes, questions, and even movies. It’s the perfect inspiration for trending topics in the current year.
Statista is “the Google for statistics”, pulling together data collected on industry reports, economic sector performances and market outlooks - everything from Netflix active users to the ketchup consumption in France. Please note that not all data is freely accessible, with premium data behind a paywall - But since it’s you, use this link to get a free 48 hour premium account on me 😉
- Use their source function, within each individual statistic, to find the original report and therefore more data and more angles to work with.
- Use their outlook reports to get projected sales or performance figures - a great tool for journalists.
YouGov specialises in market research and data analytics, conducting research in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. They conduct daily polls to measure the UK’s opinion on things like politics, entertainment, retail, technology, media, lifestyle and more. All of this data is visualised in the following free tools:
- Ratings- measures the popularity and fame of everything from politics to comedy films.
- Trackers - visualises the responses to repeated surveys, on everything from celebs to business and finance.
Audience Explorer - Shows a quick snapshot of an audience, based on brands they like or their attitude towards a topic. Great for pitches.
Data.gov is data published by the government, local authorities and public bodies covering health, defense, transport, education and crime statistics.
- Use their search function, then the “published by” section to understand where your data is held in the event of an FOI request.
- Search for similar responses and use the successful requests as a framework for requests of your own.
- Bookmark public authority profiles and track successful requests to understand possible future campaigns or news headlines.
World Bank Open Data
World Bank Open Data is an Open Data Initiative that provides over 3,000 free open access datasets - encompassing microdata, time series statistics and geospatial data. The vast amount of data on offer makes this tool the perfect starting point for feasibility checks and ideation. Type whatever your heart desires into the search function and explore.
- Population statistics are one of the most fundamental headline statistics, so check out the Global Population tool. This tool is perfect to get the most up to date global population statistics - keep it bookmarked.
- Sign up to the newsletter offering, where you can specify the types of data you want to see. Merge this with your content roadmap to time data releases with campaigns.
Hype auditor is an AI-powered social analytics tool that helps with influencer identification, finding fake followers, tracking engagement and finding audience types. Although full access requires a premium account, there is a free basic auditing report - and if you ask kindly they may extend those credits to help explore your options.
- The “track growth” service is free and allows you to track your own account for free.
- Use the discovery section for influencer identification, it’s perfect to filter through false metrics. It has tonnes of filters including brands they’ve worked with, where their majority audience lives and even fake-to-real following ratio.
- You are limited by credits, with one influencer report being one credit. But, once a report is generated you are not charged credits for that same report. So think tactically!
Influencer Marketing Hub
Influencer Marketing Hub is a leading resource for Influencers, publications and agencies providing reviews, tools and insights under one umbrella - subscribe to their newsletter.
I’ve listed my favourite free tool collection below, bookmark and enjoy!
- Instagram Calculator - estimates pay per post, engagement rates and audience interest for Instagram.
- YouTube Calculator estimates pay per post, engagement, views and audience make-up for Youtube.
- TikTok Engagement Calculator - estimates pay per post, engagement rates and hearts for Tik Tok.
- Live Subscriber Count – YouTube - Tracks Youtube subscriber growth over time in a simple report-ready chart.
- Instagram Audit - shows follower count, engagement rates and the overall audience quality score. A simple way to compare multiple influencers at once.
- Instagram Hashtag Generator Tool - this tool generates the most effective hashtags.
Reddit is a social network (with over 400 million monthly active users) that behaves like a discussion board, curating content by how its audience up or down votes the posts. Each “discussion board” is known as a subreddit and covers topics from news, science, conspiracy theories and image-sharing. It can come across as a minefield but we use this platform for ideation and inspiration, by following relevant subreddits to understand what the social conversation is, discover new data sources and query members.
- Make sure to hit the save button on any posts that grab your attention. It’s easy to upvote and forget what they were called when reviewing inspiration.
- Don’t be afraid to comment asking how data sets or visualisations were created, curiosity is rewarded on this platform.
Exploding topics - If Google trends and Chartrdaily (another awesome inspiration) had offspring, this is the talented being that would emerge. It analyses search behaviour, conversations and mentions to identify “exploding topics” before they well, explode. It’s a brilliant data source for percentage growth figures, average monthly searches and emerging topics.
- Sign up to their newsletter, it’s a brilliant way of keeping up to date with emerging conversations and topics regularly - inspiration from all angels.
- The percentage growth is based on an index (0-100), so keep note of the average search volume in relation to how much topic is “exploding” - it can catch you out.
Centre for Cities
Centre for cities is a leading think tank in helping the UK’s largest cities and towns realise their economic potential. With this mission they collect and share a large amount of city-specific data, from employment, air pollution to footfall - the scale is amazing!
- They reference everything, so make sure you take note of these as it can help you develop more angels than they may have covered.
- In the research section they show links to publications that have sited their research, a brilliant example of how to use their data and what has been covered before.
London datastore does exactly what it says on the tin - it’s a free one stop shop for all London-centric data. It’s similar to ONS in that it covers employment, housing, health and environmental statistics - but all focused on London. It’s a great source for London focused campaigns and content, as well as a super quick way to understand the impact London has on national data.
- Check out the area profiles section, it’s a perfect starting point in understanding borough by borough differences in an easy to read visual - without having to download masses of data first.
- There are a large number of data sets, so to save you downloading everything use the “preview” button to see a section of the data. This way you can scan through tens of sheets without having to commit to a download of something you may not need.
Craft is an enterprise platform that helps businesses get up to date commercial data. Now that’s out the way it’s actually an awesome place to find financial figures on large companies. This saves so much time crawling through annual financial reports, simply use their search fields and it provides you with a figure and the stated year it’s from.
- Set up an account - it’s free and the wealth of data is worth it.
- Each brand has a “follow” button which alerts you to changes in figures or reports, a great feature to help with breaking financial news.
The key takeaway here is “the more the merrier” with data sources - there’s no one-stop-shop. To help create the most original and engaging stories focus on data that mirrors your audience's behaviour and interests. If you have any questions around these sources or want inspiration on using data for digital PR, please contact us or just DM me on Twitter.