We talk to Golin about how its Bridge network is paving the way for a social-friendly future.

In the shifting digital landscape, no area of media has remained untouched. For PR professionals, public relations has evolved from pitching legacy newspapers to reaching audiences more directly. PR professionals need to be more inventive than ever.

The agencies that are emerging victorious are those that are going against traditional strategies and structures. They’re embracing data and new platforms to gain an edge in this radically changing industry.
Golin is one of the agencies that is pioneering a new way of thinking in PR, through its Bridge network. We spoke to Geeta Patel, Director, Digital Analytics & Listening, and Christie Dooley, Director of Golin’s Bridge, about how the Bridge is driving brand relevance through actionable insights.
golin bridge christie geeta

NewsWhip: What is the Bridge?

Geeta: The Bridge is Golin’s “relevance engine.” It’s an approach that literally “bridges” the gap between what our clients want to say to what people care about, helping brands be more relevant and drive stronger results.

Christie: In the simplest terms, we know that data and predictive analytics lead to strong content. When we deliver that content to the right person at the right time – someone who has the ability to accelerate strong conversation at scale – we see tremendous results. We define those people as accelerators, someone whose voice is strong enough to drive a cultural conversation. 

What makes the Bridge unique? 

Christie: The Bridge is scalable and different for every client. Everything we do is rooted in a client’s business or communications objective, so nothing we do is exactly the same. But, for all clients, there are a few key principles that drive our work:

  1. The combination of art and science is key. Data and analytics guide us, but our team’s combined experience is just as valued.
  2. We take time to understand who truly can accelerate a story or message
  3. We remain nimble, structuring our team like a newsroom. It’s powered by experienced specialists including creatives, data scientists, media and content experts, and others that all work together to identify the best opportunities for brands.

What are the daily cadence and workflow like?

Christie: Just like actual newsrooms, we meet every morning to discuss the macro trends driving conversation and coverage, and the best opportunities against the client’s objectives for the day. After getting client alignment, we spend most of the day executing, measuring and optimizing our work.

What is your typical output and which social platforms do you prioritize?

Christie: We have a mix of social and PR clients, so outputs vary based on the objective. As a best practice, we approach creative from a channel agnostic perspective and then overlay platform components during tactical planning – which is largely dependent on the target audience for the particular client.

That said, typical daily outputs include 1:1 responses via social channels, a 1:many social posts around a trending topic, an offline experience or gift of some sort, or something as simple as a handwritten note with a coupon. All drive to earned conversation and coverage.

How do you get your clients to see the importance of the data?

Geeta: Our clients understand the value of social data and are receptive to the Bridge because they understand that we’ve grounded our work in the data. As a result, we set KPIs that directly ladder up to their job to be done and are very focused on collecting and maintaining a robust data source.

We have a very large database of accelerators and track all of the actions and metrics that come with them – the opportunities that the accelerators are bringing forward, their reach, typical engagement, how they tend to post, how likely they are to respond and more. We use that information to uncover key micro-targets for clients and report that information back to them, which we use to optimize our programs and clients use to fuel other areas of marketing and communications.

How do you determine opportunities and the value of the content you’re creating for social?

Geeta: At its core, the Bridge allows us to determine the right storytelling moments for a brand. We rely a lot on predictive analytics to find the moments we should be sharing or engaging with – which is how we leverage NewsWhip. We specifically look at the predictive piece and velocity in helping us understand a story’s potential and if we should execute around it.

From a content perspective, there are a few things that we consider a best practice:

  • We only create content that a brand’s target audience cares about.
  • We counsel brands to think of themselves as a person – human and relatable – to demonstrate an interest in the accelerators as people. It’s a very nuanced approach but can be very effective when done correctly.
  • Create content that we know will appeal to the individual accelerator to encourage a retweet or share, which gets more eyes on it.

How do you measure your impact? Does that data change what you produce?

Geeta: We measure against the unique objective of our client and set metrics that will assess if we are meeting that objective. From that, we can gauge what change we create or the consumer impact.

We also set up data tracking from our activity to understand how we can optimize throughout the process to better set ourselves up for success. After collecting a strong amount of data, we are able to provide insights to our clients on who their brand fans are and micro-target passion groups who love their brands, and recommendations for how we can reach them through the Bridge and other areas of their business. 

What have been your challenges? 

Geeta: Anytime you are pioneering a new way of thinking about communications, it pushes brands outside of their comfort zone. So, you need to have patience and believe in the process because we know it works – some of our brands have seen positive shifts in consumer sentiment and brand advocacy from this type of work.

What have you mastered? Any tips for other content creators? A secret recipe?

Christie: We built the Bridge team in Golin’s Chicago office with a startup mentality. We’re nimble and flexible, which allows us to adjust to changes in media, technologies, tools, and platforms. We’ve also become comfortable with making mistakes, in an effort to continuing pushing and learning how we can do better. As Geeta mentioned, this is a totally new way of communications so it took time to perfect.

So, for us specifically, our secret recipe was – and still is – the Bridge team. By creating a dedicated team of people who do this work all day long, we’ve been able to scale up quickly and help our clients adjust their approaches to a changing media landscape. 

What are your goals for the Bridge? Is there anything you’re looking forward to? 

Christie: We are always trying to be one step ahead of everything. We never want to feel comfortable doing one thing, especially in today’s world. We focus on innovation and growth and constantly push ourselves and our clients to try new things.

Geeta: I would love to see an advanced system of predictive analytics to better understand what will trend within certain micro-targets. Additionally, I’d like more automation. We know that our technology partners are constantly innovating, so we need to leverage the best and new tools to improve the Bridge. 

What are you most proud of with the Bridge? 

Geeta: We were able to merge traditional earned communications into the digital world in a way that’s analytical, smart and effective. We have created something that is really unique and really works. We’ve seen a lot of success from an earned influencer standpoint and have been able to use this approach for paid and more.

Christie: We’ve actually seen earned influencer results exceed paid results for some clients, which was surprising and we took as a mini-revolution in the earned space. When we see success like that, we know we have something good and something to be proud of.
Thanks, Geeta and Christie! Golin is a NewsWhip Spike client. Try a demo of NewsWhip Spike to see how you can keep a pulse on the top stories of the day before they go viral. 


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