This month’s guest blogger is Brad Phillips, the author of the Mr. Media Training Blog, which offers daily media and presentation training tips. His firm, Phillips Media Relations, specializes in media and presentation training.
By Brad Phillips
If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember those old television commercials for the Christian Children’s Fund. In them, actress Sally Struthers sold viewers the promise of saving a child for “the price of a cup of coffee.”
A quarter-century later, those ads are still memorable. And the way Ms. Struthers used numbers in those commercials is a big part of the reason why.
Imagine if she had instead said, “You can save a child for just $255 a year.”
Few people would have anted up, and it certainly wouldn’t have stuck in your memory. Instead, she said, “For about 70 cents, you can buy a can of soda, regular or diet. In Ethiopia, for just 70 cents a day, you can feed a child like Jamal nourishing meals.”
Statistics can be beautiful things, but too many press releases and media interviews are buried in data that offer no context. As a result, they’re rarely effective.
5 Ways to Help Your Numbers Jump Off the Page
- Create a Mental Picture: There are 1.37 million homeless children in the United States. No one will remember that specific number. Instead, try saying this:
Yankee Stadium seats 52,000 people. Imagine that stadium completely sold out, not a single empty seat in the house. Now imagine 26 of those stadiums, side-by-side, each completely full. That’s the number of children who will be homeless in America sometime this year.
- Make Numbers Personal: Numbers are often best when they’re reduced to a personal or familial level. So instead of saying a tax cut would save the American people $100 billion this year, say the average family of four would receive $1,250 in tax relief.
- Don’t Rely on Percentages: Instead of proclaiming that your plant’s new energy efficient manufacturing equipment will cut your company’s carbon footprint by 35 percent, tell your audience what that means. Does your new efficiency mean that you will save 20,000 barrels of oil this year? Say so!
- Use Ratios: 170,000 people in Washington, D.C. are functionally illiterate. But that number doesn’t tell you much, especially if you have no sense of the overall population. Instead, why not say:One in three adults living in Washington, DC is functionally illiterate. Next time you’re on the Metro, look around you. Odds are that the person to your left or right can’t read a newspaper.
- Provide Relative Distance: If you’re a car company announcing increased fuel efficiency, you’d be proud to announce that this year’s model gets four miles more per gallon. But you’d probably get even more traction if you said, “That’s enough to get from Maine to Miami – without spending an extra penny on gas.”
These five ideas may get you started, but keep looking. You’ll find other great examples on television commercials, in marketing solicitations, even pasted onto billboards.
So take out those statistics you keep using year-after-year, and use these ideas to help freshen them up. Challenge yourself by inserting one of these context-rich statistics into your next press release or media interview. You may be surprised to find it’s the thing your audience remembers the most.