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Creating Marketing Campaigns Using the Freedom of Information Act

Companies / SME Nov 17, 2020 - 12:45 PM GMT

By: Sumeet_Manhas

Companies

Statistics and data provide a fantastic ‘base’ for an online marketing campaign or piece of content. Statistics often generate hyperlinks from other websites, as copywriters like to back up their comments and insights by referencing data. In turn, links are great for improving your website’s visibility on search engines like Google.

Telephone answering service provider Moneypenny for example recently published a blog-post regarding the rise of remote working, which gained lots of press coverage and over a dozen links from authoritative websites.


What is Freedom of Information Exactly?

The freedom of information act allows UK residents to request information from public organisations such as publically owned companies, or government organisations such as schools and hospitals. Journalists frequently make requests using the FOI legislation to create exciting and ‘exclusive’ headlines without having to do investigative work themselves. The MP expenses scandal was uncovered using FOI requests.

Anyone can make an FOI request, but that it’s a good idea for everyone to do so. FOI request cost the taxpayer millions of pounds each year. Requests are normally free of charge, although sometimes you will be asked to be an administrative charge.

Bear in mind, that the service is free but you will be using public time and money to complete the request. Which sometimes might be argued to be somewhat unethical – for example, an NHS request during the current pandemic!

If this is a concern, you can use the website - whatdotheyknow.com. you can search on the website, via the search-box – using keywords related to the topic that interests you and/or your business. For example, if you are a nutritionist, you may want to search for “school dinners” and then click on “requests” and check the box for “successful requests” then click “filter”:

Before you make a request, it is best to think about a campaign and what angle you will use the data from, to create an interesting story, blog post or visual asset (such as an infographic)

Campaign Ideas:

- A Nutritionist could create a campaign using information about school dinners

- Security firms could use FOI data regarding shed break-ins

- Opticians could use information regarding the number of driving tests that were failed due to poor eyesight

Whatever idea you come up with, it is best to keep it as relevant as possible to your business.

Remember that anybody can use the data and information that you have managed to obtain with an FOI request. So if you want to run with an exclusive story or headline, keep this in mind as someone else could have an alert or notification set in place for whenever FOI requests for specific topics have been successful. In theory they could create a story with the data before you do and effectively ‘steal’ any exposure that you were hoping for.

How to Carry Out an FOI Request

An FOI request is normally made via email.

A request template is shown here:

Dear [name of organisation / public body]

Under the Freedom of Information Act I would like to request the following data/information:

 [Add your questions and request for information here]

If possible please release available data as soon as it is obtained, even if this means that the requests are fulfilled in stages.

Please contact me if you require clarification of my request.

If there is an issue with costs, please let me know and please advise what information can be obtained for free, and/or within the limit of any set budgets.

Yours sincerely

[your name]

The number of requests is in theory, unlimited, but people normally ask around 5 things maximum.

You can also ask for a receipt of your request – the body or organisation will have 20 working days to respond to you once they have acknowledged it.

If you are not happy with the response, or you do not hear back from the body or organisation, you can then ask for an internal review. This should be completed within 20 working days. If you are still not happy at this point, you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office – you can find the website here.

Once You Have Your Information

Once your request has been fulfilled and you have obtained the data that you wanted, you can hopefully take the next step and convert the data into a PR-worthy campaign.

The best way to do this is to present the data in an interesting and creative way. Google have just realised their Journalist Studio which may come in useful at this point. It has a number of portals and sites that not only help you to search and find data but also present it. For example, you can use The Common Knowledge Project to obtain US data and then Flourish Studio to present the data.

If you are using the information to create a blog post, creating an infographic is a great way to visualise the data. People are more likely to share your blog post across social media platforms and are more likely to link to your blog if you have a visual asset such as an infographic.

By Sumeet Manhas

© 2020 Copyright Sumeet Manhas - All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


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