August 10, 2015 Society

Making Headlines: 4 Tips for Making Your Data and Report Newsworthy

My communications team at The Nature Conservancy regularly hears from reporters that they don’t want to receive reports, not even a press release about a report. Reports aren’t newsworthy; reports don’t make headlines. This is disappointing because, as you and I well know, the information and data found in our reports is important, especially to those in the industry. So last year, when I was given a report from the Conservancy’s Water program with the expectation of getting significant coverage, my chest tightened and pangs of anxiety filled my body.

Thankfully, our team had the support of the report scientists and nearly five months to plan and execute a communications strategy to promote the report now known as the Urban Water Blueprint. We focused our strategy by thinking about the audiences we wanted to reach and the best ways to do that. Our careful planning and subsequent efforts resulted in earned media coverage in more than 20 outlets, including Reuters and Bloomberg Businessweek, 1,800 retweets, 18,000 people from 143 countries visiting our newly launched website and even a PRSA Silver Anvil award.

So how did we do it? Here are four strategies we used when launching the Urban Water Blueprint that may be helpful to you.

1. Make your data interesting and digestible. The 100+ page Urban Water Blueprint is technical and key points are dispersed throughout the report. We created a tight set of messages that distilled the report’s findings into memorable bits of information and addressed key concerns of our audiences: affordability, practicality and benefits of natural infrastructure.

Most importantly, wherever possible, we eliminated industry terminology and opted for plain and simple language. If you can explain your findings simply, you improve your chances of having media pick-up your story.

We then used these messages to create infographics and a dynamic website to make the data come to life. These visual elements add the “pop” many media outlets look for when evaluating story concepts.

2. Distribute information through channels frequented by your target audiences. Instead of casting a wide net, we targeted our outreach to communication channels and media outlets that we knew our audiences visited.

We drafted and submitted feature stories to relevant trade publications. We targeted mainstream media reporters that covered city and environmental issues. We reached out to associations that focused on our target audiences and submitted content for their newsletters, blogs and even suggested tweets.

This stakeholder outreach was one of our most successful strategies. Eleven stakeholder groups published our pre-packaged materials, and their followings enabled us to reach approximately 337,000 people in our core audience groups.

3. Align your findings with topics trending in the news. If media aren’t talking about the topics in your report, they most likely won’t write about it. So rather than focusing our pitch on the exact topic of the report (the value of natural infrastructure), we tied the report’s relevancy to urbanization and water scarcity. By showing the timeliness and relevancy of the information in the report, we maximized media interest.

Aligning with the news cycle is also critical to getting traction on social media platforms. People are more likely to share news on trending topics, so again, aligning our report with cities and water scarcity led to more than 1,800 retweets of our tweets about the Urban Water Blueprint.

4. Capitalize on opportunities to engage a captive audience. We timed the report’s release with a large conference, the Global Water Summit, hosted by The Nature Conservancy. It’s always easier and more fruitful to attach your report launch to a bigger event where your audience is already planning to be.

By organizing a launch panel at the plenary session, we were automatically guaranteed that 400 people in the water space would see the report. Additionally, we offered an option to attend virtually which was promoted by several industry associations. This garnered us an additional 300 attendees.


Promoting data is no walk in the park, but it’s also not a non-starter. Science and data are needed by decisionmakers, and that’s why investment in strategic communications is so important. With solid planning, you can ensure that your information gets in the hands of those who need it and who have the ability to drive change.

Meghan Snow is a Communications Director for The Nature Conservancy. You can follow Meghan on Twitter @meghansnow.

Meghan Snow

Communications Director for the Nature Conservancy