Using Google search trends as a tool for PR insights and strategy

Whilst mainstream media coverage and agenda tracking is still significant and important in PR, digital listening and tracking tools are becoming more important than ever for a PR pro to track news, an issue, or to simply looking gain stronger insights into community sentiment and discussion around an issue. Whilst our morning routine still includes a quick read of the rapidly thinning print edition of the paper, we’re also tracking the news in our Twitter stream, the news feed from traditional and social news outlets on smartphones and our trail of e-newsletters when we reach our desk in the morning.

When it comes to communications planning and strategy, we’re also seeking further insights beyond topic and audience research, and tracking real-time news and conversations on the web. One of the coolest (and easiest to use) tools to do this is Google Trends – A quick-smart way to track current web hot topics, and reflect on the traction around keywords and issues over time and location.

A recent example came to light when my office was discussing a new campaign launched by Coke Zero called “Sweater Generator“, giving users the ability to create a custom tacky Christmas jumper for the season and “harness the power of a thousand grandmothers in the palm of your Internet.” Cute, shareworthy idea right?

Debate ensued. What was the audience, trend or culture insight that lead to this being a good idea? Was Coke Zero just jumping on a niche seasonal activity in an effort to appear to be hip? How would a kitsch jumper competition shared on social motivate audiences to drink Coke Zero or change their perception of the brand? Senior team members were not convinced.

I then discovered a little gem revealing that insights of search and web-based behaviors by its target millennial audience drove the development of the campaign strategy:

“Our goal was to reach millennials both female and male, as they spend an inordinate amount of time searching online for the tackiest sweaters to wear to tacky sweater holiday parties,” said Bobby Oliver, senior brand manager for Coke Zero at Coca-Cola North America. “We just thought we could help them out.” (Haniya Rae, Digiday – Nov, 2013)

A quick search of the web uncovered an array of online stores, tacky photo galleries and tributes to what looked to be a major cultural movement for our northern hemisphere friends as they celebrate Christmas. Backing this up with evidence? To Google we go!

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 10.18.17 PM

Keywords: Christmas jumper, Christmas sweater, ugly xmas sweater party

Looking at each of those peaks, it became evident that ugly Christmas sweaters were a trend amongst US, Canadian and UK audiences, with news featuring these quirky items featuring in news of the festive season (shown by these peaks). This online insight from the brand, correctly correlated with evidence of a growing trend (and love) of tacky Yuletide gear. Go go Google insights!

So beyond retrospective web search and content analysis (as demonstrated simply above), how does this tool help a PR practitioner in the day to day? In addition to retrospective analysis, real-time analysis of search trends and hot topics can assist in the development of social media conversation calenders and traditional media outreach strategies. General news topics tend to dominate, but trend analysis and results when a story goes big or content goes viral can be a great result to include in campaign analysis. Who wouldn’t be pleased about having their news, brand or issue featured in the top 10 searched terms from a proactive PR campaign? Search trend analysis is also a nice “morning first thing” activity after reviewing traditional media, to see which topics and news is resonating with online audiences.

Heading into the Trend homepage, top stories of the day and their resulting searches are featured (example below):

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 10.11.58 PM

Users can then get a live, constantly updating snapshot of top search terms across fourteen countries, including Australia, the US and UK. A quick and clever way to check the pulse of the web (as per visual below) and gauge the opportunity to hijack and become part of those discussion topics in proactive PR activity with both traditional and non-traditional audiences.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 10.12.36 PM

Whether it be for planning and audience insights, or to fuel the insights of a real-time brand-newsroom or PR campaign, Google Trends is a really cool (and useful) tool for the digital PR – Highly recommended!

What’s your morning news and conversation analysis routine? Share your tips, tricks and tools in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s