Roshan Mohan
May 13, 2024

Why data is leading disruption in the communications industry

Roshan Mohan of Pepper Communications Group asserts that the days of PR professionals adopting a one-size-fits-all approach in hopes of resonating with the masses are over. Today, survival in the industry hinges on leveraging data.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The communication industry is undergoing a significant shift, driven by technological advancements and an unprecedented influx of data. In a world where information travels at the speed of light, and consumer preferences change rapidly, traditional communication methods are becoming obsolete. Today, news is a product of conversations, and these conversations, in turn, shape the news. At the core of this dynamic is data, which is not just a tool but a necessity for success in the communication industry.

The old approach

Back in the day, PR professionals took a one-size-fits-all approach, hoping to strike a chord with the masses through the most appropriate generic messaging. However, with the advent of data, we can now fine-tune our communication to resonate with specific demographics, interests, and behaviours, leading to more effective campaigns.

By harnessing the power of data analytics and machine learning algorithms, PR professionals can unlock invaluable insights into consumer preferences. These insights not only enable us to create highly targeted campaigns that deliver more impactful results but also position us as key players in the industry's transformation and growth. Moreover, data-driven campaigns offer a more personalised approach, empowering companies to extend their reach and resonate more effectively with their target audiences.

Data-driven campaigns are more than just a theoretical concept for us.

For example, we had the opportunity to handle a campaign for an international pen brand before we had AI-based data tools. Collector edition pens were typically marketed as lifestyle products in metro cities where audiences were upwardly mobile with higher discretionary incomes. The common belief was that the urban regions had more affordability and interest. However, purely by accident, we discovered that these pens were also in great demand in tier-2 cities—where disposable income and aspirational audiences existed.

Now, a pricey limited edition pen is purely a status symbol. You do not use it as a writing instrument in daily life. It has to be maintained and stored correctly. As urban audiences looked to other things in the luxury sector, the tier-2 audience was quietly aspiring to acquire such symbols.

Learning from this, we adapted the approach to include publications focused on tier-2 audiences. The brand also initiated specific campaigns in these cities. Of course, this campaign was driven by excellent expertise and extensive on-the-ground work related to surveys and perception audits.

In contrast, many tools are available today that give you ongoing data from various locations—and not just associated with purchase preferences. It can also shed light on sentiments, changing consumer behaviour.

One can pitch more effective stories to journalists with the help of data that connects to ongoing trends. With proper training, one can also understand the right timing to disseminate a particular piece of news.

Measuring impact

Of course, we need to measure the campaign's impact —for clients, to improve the next stage, and for other critical objectives.

The antiquated ‘AVE’ measurement can be finally laid to rest. Now, we can track critical real-time performance indicators, monitoring engagement, sentiment, and conversion rates with unparalleled granularity. This data-driven approach allows us to gauge the effectiveness of our campaigns with greater accuracy. It empowers us to re-create and optimise strategies on the fly, ensuring maximum ROI for our clients.

However, it's important to note that with the rise in interest related to data tools, it's crucial to understand that it is more complex than pulling out a report at the click of a button. Expertise as a data analyst or expert in accurately interpreting that data becomes invaluable. The platforms must also be trained or curated to ‘listen’ correctly, underscoring the importance of the role of an experienced communications professional in the process. While data is a powerful tool, it's not a magic solution, and its effectiveness depends on how it's used and interpreted.

For instance, you are a tyre brand, and you want to measure the sentiment of your new product. However, the market is currently not doing very well, or there may be some negative trends in the industry. As a result, the first report may show that your product is also trending negatively—even if the mention in the stories has been positive. Reading and interpreting listening reports correctly is also crucial, and macro conditions must be considered.

Additionally, enabling one-click data reports is insufficient in a country like India, which has multiple languages (and a strong sarcasm game). A strong Boolean string is just the start of the process. Data analytics are a must to explain the impact qualitatively. Some AI tools make this process easier, but a perfect one-stop solution has yet to arrive.


Data has emerged as the linchpin of success in the communication industry, driving unprecedented levels of personalisation, granularity, measurement, and strategic foresight. As the head of a PR agency, I am acutely aware of the transformative impact that data has had on our field, and I am committed to harnessing its power to deliver unparalleled results for our clients. In a world where data matters more than ever, embracing a data-driven approach is not just a preference but essential for staying ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive landscape.

It's time to adapt, evolve, and lead the way with data.

Roshan Mohan is managing director at Pepper Communications Group.

Roshan Mohan

Campaign India

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