Digital PR campaigns can be time-consuming and labour-intensive, but they can also yield great results. However, with the size of content generated worldwide rapidly exceeding 200 zettabytes (that is, one sextillion or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes), it is becoming more difficult to create content that stands out from the rest of the crowd. By finding data sources that can help you tell compelling stories, you significantly increase your chances of getting picked up by some of the biggest publications out there.
Imagine telling a story about something and each time the user loads up the content on their browser to read, the data they see is the most updated version. It means you can report on unique perspectives to breaking/emerging stories and have the data to back it up. Journalists love that! In this article, we’ll cover some of the best data sources you can use when setting up your next digital PR campaign!
An open data source can be thought of as any set of publicly available data that is not subject to any copyright, trademark, or patents. In most cases, it refers to databases owned by the government or private organisations where the data has been intentionally made public with restrictions.
In most cases you are able to easily access and download data from open sources and use it within your PR campaign. However, in most cases raw data exports (from these open data sources) are usually clunky and voluminous. You’ll still have to take the time to clean it up and refine it before you are able to use it; sometimes by the time you are ready to use it, it is already outdated. This is where APIs can be really helpful.
What is API?
An API, or application programming interface, is a set of protocols and tools that software programs can use to communicate with each other. It’s a bit like ordering food at your favourite restaurant. The waiter or waitress (the API) takes your order, delivers your request to the kitchen (the database), and then returns what you asked for. The API makes it possible to connect the requester and the entity fulfilling the request.
APIs allow developers of software or applications to interact with data provided by other companies or website. If I wanted to build an app which pulls images from an Instagram account and displays them on a web page, I would have to get access rights from Instagram in order to do so. This can be done using the Instagram API, which would allow me to send requests in order extract information about the user’s timeline and display it on my website in real time.
It is important to note that not all API access are free. At the end of the day, we are talking about someone else’s data. They may decide to allow access to some parts for free or charge a free/subscription for access. Free APIs may have more consistent coverage and more extensive data, although they are often limited in which information they provide.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) collects and publishes statistics on the economy, population and society using information from a range of sources including surveys. Data is provided as downloadable spreadsheets and is also available via API calls. A recommended approach is to explore the data first with the spreadsheet version provided on the website. Understand how you want to present your data first before using the API to model a live/evergreen visualisation with the same dataset you have explored with the spreadsheet.
They also have a good amount of visualisations already present on their website, so it may be helpful to look around first as it is possible that what you need may already be available and all you need to do is simply download or embed visualisation you need. E.g.
The ONS is regularly and frequently updated with new datasets every couple of days. As you’d expect, old datasets are not deleted from the website and are also included within the timeseries section of the website: https://www.ons.gov.uk/timeseriestool
With ONS, the range of data available is quite broad, you’ll need to know exactly what you are looking for, otherwise you may end up browsing for ages, lost in a maze of numbers and data.
World Bank Open Data provides access to comprehensive annual statistics and global economic indices. With so much regional economic data available, you almost have to know precisely, or at least have a good idea of what you are looking for, when considering data from the World Bank.
If you are working on a project that involves standard of living costs across countries, gross domestic product or unemployment for example, for a country or from a country’s perspective, then you may want to consider World Bank Open Data.
The World Bank Indicators API provides access to nearly 16,000 time series indicators. Most of these indicators are available online through tools such as Databank and the Open Data website. The API provides programmatic access to this same data. Many data series date back over 50 years and can be used to create a good time series.
The Indicators API provides access to over 45 databases, including:
The easiest way to look for data is to use the search box at the top of the page. You can search for indicator names, countries, and topics. The search box shows you a list of matching results as you enter text; simply select one of the matching terms to instantly display the result.
The displayed result will usually contain options to download the table as a CSV or Excel file or web-based table.
Types of data that can be obtained from the World bank:
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, value added (% of GDP)
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita)
Domestic credit provided by financial sector (% of GDP)
Electric power consumption (kWh per capita)
Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita)
Exports of goods and services (% of GDP)
External debt stocks, total (DOD, current US$)
Foreign direct investment, net inflows (BoP, current US$)
Forest area (sq. km)
GDP (current US$)
GDP growth (annual %)
High-technology exports (% of manufactured exports)
Imports of goods and services (% of GDP)
Income share held by lowest 20%
Industry (including construction), value added (% of GDP)
Inflation, GDP deflator (annual %)
Life expectancy at birth, total (years)
Merchandise trade (% of GDP)
Military expenditure (% of GDP)
Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000 live births)
Net official development assistance and official aid received (current US$)
Personal remittances, received (current US$)
Population density (people per sq. km of land area)
Population growth (annual %)
School enrollment, primary (% gross)
School enrollment, primary and secondary (gross), gender parity index (GPI)
School enrollment, secondary (% gross)
Tax revenue (% of GDP)
Time required to start a business (days)
Total debt service (% of exports of goods, services and primary income)
You can download street-level crime, outcome, and stop and search data in clear and simple CSV format and explore the API containing detailed crime data and information about individual police forces and neighbourhood teams.
You can also download data on police activity, and a range of data collected under the police annual data requirement (ADR) including arrests and 101 call handling.
Types of data that can be obtained from the police databank:
Force senior officers
Street level crimes
Street level outcomes
Crimes at location
Crimes with no location
Outcomes for a specific crime
Stop and search related
Stop and searches by area
Stop and searches by location
Stop and searches with no location
Stop and searches by force
The Statista API is an excellent resource that provides detailed real time access to market data, market research and market studies from a wide variety of sources accessible from the Statista database. You can find statistics, consumer survey results and industry studies from over 22,500 sources on over 60,000 topics on the internet’s leading statistics database.
Below are the types of data that can be obtained from Statista’s API:
Company data: individual, aggregated and ranked
Global consumer survey
Digital & Consumer market outlooks
Please note that you will need a paid licence to use Statista’s API.
If your research/story relates to pulling specific information about a particular company or group of companies, then Crunchbase may be a good option. Crunchbase contains business information for private and public companies. Content includes investment and funding information, founding members and individuals in leadership positions, mergers and acquisitions, news, and industry trends.
Crunchbase makes a CSV export available for developers seeking to access Crunchbase data without coding against the REST API. The export is updated each morning and includes separate files for companies, people, funding rounds, acquisitions, and IPOs.
Enterprise or Applications (paid) access is required to download the CSV files.
The CSV export is a compressed TAR file containing the following files:
csv – organisation profiles available on the Crunchbase platform
csv – long descriptions for organisation profiles
csv – list of all acquisitions available on Crunchbase platform
csv – mapping between parent organisations and subsidiaries
csv – detail for each IPO in the dataset
csv – mappings between organisation categories and category groups
csv – people profiles available on Crunchbase platform
csv – long descriptions for people profiles
csv – detail for people’s education background
csv – list of all job and advisory roles
csv – active investors, including both organisations and people
csv – all investments made by investors
csv – partners who are responsible for their firm’s investments
csv – details for investors’ investment funds
csv – details for each funding round in the dataset
csv – event details
csv – event participation details
It’s true that APIs may not be part of your everyday vocabulary yet, but chances are you’ve already encountered them in your work and personal life. Getting started with them doesn’t need to be hard—in fact, it can save you time and money without impacting your overall strategy. The key is knowing where and how to use them most effectively!
Open data sources have the potential to help your digital PR campaigns excel and generate coverage and links in an increasingly competitive field. APIs allow you to take advantage of a vast range of digital data without having to spend any more time or money than necessary.
To wrap up, it is crucial to know where to find the data for your campaigns and you’ll want to keep a close eye on new open data sources that come out as they pop up – we’ll be listing them in this blog so come back soon – there’s no telling what kind of nuggets of information you can find!
We’ve compiled API information in the table below for you to use for data led stories, along with detail on whether the API is paid for, free or if you can get limited access for free, the data point you’ll be connecting to and how often the data is updated. We’ll be publishing new APIs regularly, so come back soon!