PRs need number-savviness – or risk reputations

Numbers. Data. Statistics.

Whatever description it has, numerical information has always had its place in public relations – in the private, public and not-for-profit

In this digital age, PR professionals need to be savvy with numbers as they have never done before.

There are three good reasons why.

First, with the rise of data-journalism, journalists themselves are becoming savvier with numbers. And these skills mean they may have a better – and different – insight into your press release full of averages, percentages and trends than you do.

Second, it’s not just journalists who’ll pore over your numbers. Overly spun and poorly evidenced claims are getting scrutinised as never before. Organisations such as Full Fact and campaigns such as Ask for Evidence don’t just probe claims; they publicise the results and they equip the public with the tools to do the same. And, with social media, exposure of creatively-used statistics as a ‘damn lie’ can be damaging employer’s or client’s reputation more quickly and widely than ever.

Third, even a basic understanding of simple statistical ideas – the type learned long before GCSE – means PR professionals can explore data to reveal richer and more compelling content. It could be about knowing when the median can be a more useful measure of the average than the mean; how to ‘standardise’ a dataset to reveal overspending or underperformance; or how to visualise the numbers credibly and with impact.

You’ll find some of the basics covered in the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ skills guide, Using Statistics in Public Relations. (I declare my interest – I wrote it.)

* Want to brush up your numerical skills and develop them further? Come along to one of my half-day workshops on building confidence in using data and statistics in public relations.

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