Best Practices for Using Statistics in PR

One powerful way to gain visibility and credibility in your marketplace is by sponsoring survey research that documents problems and solutions in areas where you have expertise.  To be successful, it requires (1) rigorous research carefully designed to uncover the right topics, and (2) savvy PR work that uses data to tell a credible and compelling story.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the American Statistical Association have just published a handy guide for PR professionals that outlines best practices for using, interpreting and reporting statistics in press releases and other PR materials.  Some of those best practices include the following:

  • Disclose who paid for the work, and who did the research
  • Clearly describe how the research was conducted
  • Describe the sample of the survey, and whether it was truly random
  • Remember that almost any survey can suffer from bias
  • Rely on descriptive statistics to report the data
  • Remember that all statistical research includes some level of uncertainty
  • Clearly describe trends and effects
  • Avoid making claims about the future based on recent history
  • Use causal statements cautiously, as they are very hard to prove
  • Run your insights by the person who did the research to be sure the data support it

Turning data into stories is never easy, but as this partnership between PRSA and the ASA makes clear, it is becoming more and more important for PR professionals to have a working knowledge of statistics.  And if Shonali Burke’s report from the 2011 PRSA conference is any indication, PR professionals are embracing the challenge.

Versta Research can help you with this challenge.  We are experts in research.  We know how to design surveys and report statistics that get your message heard.  Give us a call at (312) 348-6089 when you need a compelling custom survey or omnibus survey to help you tell your story.

Joe Hopper, Ph.D.

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