How do your infographics stack up?

I’ve had the pleasure of recently working with a fantastic group of experts on the #PRstack ebook project. Led by Stephen Waddington, the 91-page book developed as a crowdsourced project to tackle modern public relations workflow, and features sections on ‘Social listening and planning ‘, ‘Curation’, ‘Building relationships online’, and ‘Project management and measurement’, and I contributed my own chapter as part of the ‘Content’ section.

Titled ‘Using data and tools to hack infographics’, I go through a selection of rich sources of data to help understand audiences or publics, and a variety of tools provides to means to create content as a means of engagement. The chapter is reproduced in full below. Grab the whole ebook here, for free.


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Using data and tools to hack infographics

People forget facts and data quickly. To bridge the gap between data and those who need to learn something from it, or make decisions based on its analysis, visualising data or information creates stickiness – persuading, influencing and motivating an audience to take a desired action.

With the ever increasing demand on informative shareable content, producing a great data story – or an infographic, needn’t take days, weeks or months or a massive budget; and streamlining this process with a selection of low-cost or free easy-to-use tools and resources can add significant value to any data driven public relations campaign.

Data gathering and research

Data and facts will help any content resonate; yet gathering your own data can be an expensive exercise, with most market research agencies or polling companies charging anything between £5,000 to £50,000 for a standalone project.

Spending thousands of pounds on producing your own data sets doesn’t always have to be the case, and utilising free sources of public data to identify trends and to gather facts and figures to support your own data story can be the quickest and most productive way of spending your money and time.

Google Trends

Tracking the popularity of keyword search over time is a powerful way to see what makes your audience tick, from exploring and comparing search terms to understanding global or regional preferences for holiday destinations to recipes for cake. Ultimate content inspiration.

The Google Trends forecasting function will also help you plan how, where and when to distribute any content you end up producing. Exporting the data into charts and graphs could also form the basis of the visuals for any infographic.

A neat hack, which can be applied to any data source available online, is hooking up Google Trends with If This Then That.A quick three-step IFTTT Google Trends recipe
1. THIS Channel: Grab the Google Trends URL page and convert it into RSS using feed43.com2. Select “new item matches” and enter your industry keyword3. THAT Channel: EmailYou will now get an email alert every time a Google trend matches your industry keyword.

datahub

Public sources of data are pots of gold at the end of the rainbow for anyone looking to add context and relevance to a story or campaign. datahub is a free, powerful data management platform from the Open Knowledge Foundation. It is used by national and local governments, research institutions, and other organisations which collect a lot of data and currently hosts close to 10,000 individual data sets.

With its powerful search functionality it is possible to browse and find many sources of data to create that sticky “I didn’t know that” moment to a graphic, visual or campaign. The preview feature also uses maps, graphs and tables which are easy to grab and use as part of a tweet, infographic or report.

Another quick hack to find publicly available data sheets is using the Google Search ‘+filetype:’ modifier. Enter in typical data filetypes ‘xls’, ‘csv’ or ‘xlsx’ with your industry keyword and see what you can find!

Import.io

Import.io is a London based start-up that enables you to instantly turn any web page into data. As an example, grabbing the URL from a LinkedIn search page for people with ‘Public relations’ in their job title in the United Kingdom, and processing it through the tool, would allow you to manipulate data and discover trends from over 14,411 fellow professionals.

Another neat example of how brands, organisations and individuals have already utilised Import.io includes Wifi and Plugs, who grabbed existing data sets to map and then visualise all the free wifi places and charging stations in London.

SurveyMonkey

An oldie, but still a goodie – SurveyMonkey has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years presenting users a ton of options to interact with data findings, cross analyse and really mine deep into results to discover trends and themes.

For any data to stand up to external scrutiny, a sample size of around 500 of a defined audience or at least 2,000 of the general population is usually deemed sufficient. Transparently making the raw data available in tables and charts is also a must.

Other great sources of stats and data include: Buzzsumo, Facebook graph, Fre.sh, Google PublicData, Data Portals, Data Market, Data.gov.uk, Amazon web services, DBpedia, Kiosk HQ, Many Eyes, and many more.

Content creation and visualisation

Putting all facts, figures and information gathered into a meaningful, useable and shareable format is not an easy task. Whilst upskilling and being confident in using advanced photo editing tools like the Adobe Illustrator should be part of any modern public relations professionals’ toolkit, the time and investment required for training and software is not always possible, on top of that, switching your smartphone to do not disturb for six hours in the edit suite isn’t ideal.

As default many people approach a designer – but often, seventeen drafts down the line you find yourself asking “wouldn’t this would have been easier to do myself?” Now you can.

RAW

Turning spreadsheets into graphics needn’t just rely on the skills you learnt in secondary school I.T. in Microsoft Excel, RAW is an open web app to create custom vector-based visualisations based on any data imported through any spreadsheet.

Whilst it is definitely raw by name and raw by nature, once you get a hang of vector based editing – this go-to tool can save you hours of time.

Plotly

Plotly is an easy to use charting tool that provides an easy way to get charts in a publishable state for all kinds of visual content. It’s like Tableau (which normally costs an arm and a leg!), but online, free, and far more flexible, giving freedom in layout, colors, and chart elements, as well as the precision required to convey complex pieces of information. Plotly has native integration with Import.io (listed above).

For advanced users, Plotly also has an extensive API library for developers to create more bespoke interactive, publication-quality plots in your web browser.

Jolicharts

Available for free or with extended options at low-cost, Jolicharts will allow you to build an interactive data presentation based on uploaded spreadsheet data.

Imagine the ease of PowerPoint but real-time interactive data visualisation. Dashboards are easy to alter and change, with interactive chart placing and resizing, photo and text placing, and video embedding, all at the click of a button or swipe of a screen. Chart color and number formats can be chosen from standard sets. You can also add filter boxes so users can interact with multiple visuals at once. Sharing it internally or externally is easy through in-browser presentation that is optimised for mobile, desktop or tablet.

Recite

An infographic isn’t just a way to share numbers and data, and in its simplest form an infographic is “any visual representation of information”. On top of that, any tweet including images or photos is twice as likely to drive engagement – so why waste 140 characters on Joe Blogs says “I’m delighted that…” in your next post?

Recite is a fantastic free tool enabling the creation of beautiful visual quotes in a number of stunning templates with direct posting available to Twitter, as well as Pinterest, Facebook, Stumbleupon, and more.

Other top ways to visualise data and insight include: MonkeyLearn, Dataseed, Piktochart, Infogr.am, GettyImages. Creative Commons image search, Pinwords, and many more.

What’s next?

Producing great shareable interactive data stories or infographics is just the start. Distributing them at the right time to the right audience, and analysing the results is all part and parcel of a valuable public relations exercise.


You’ll find this post mirrored on the #PRstack website.

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