Presentation, communication and dissemination of vital statistics
Getting the message across with words
Vital statistics should not only be communicated as numbers and tables. Whether in news releases, annual reports, press releases or blogs, key findings should be outlined and readers’ attention should be caught with easily understood and interesting headings. In order to get media coverage of your statistics or reports, you need to contextualise the impact your statistics have on the wider world. News outlets care about stories that address at least one of the following characteristics:
- Locality or relevance
- Human interest.
Some useful guidance on how to get your message across to different audiences can be found in the Making data meaningful guide, part 1: A guide to writing stories about numbers guide. The style of writing depends on the media in which you are communicating. For instance, if using the internet, the style of your writing should be small snippets and as entertaining as possible. In general, if writing for a mass media, you have to use a journalistic style and find the story that the data tells. The more knowledge of the data you have, the easier it is to bring in other contexts and explanations that make the data more relevant and easier for non-experts to understand. Without developing some kind of storyline, the press release risks becoming just a description of numbers. The most important findings you have should always be placed in context of short- and long-term trends and should explore relationships to the extent that they can be supported by evidence. Further, to support the data and build the narrative you can insert quotes by an expert who can bring authority to your findings. This also points out to the media that there is a person available to speak to them about the impact of your numbers in a compelling way.
Writing in a journalistic style means that you begin by reporting the most important fact first and then bring in the subsidiary points in decreasing order of importance. Any conclusions that you might have drawn should be the lead in the opening paragraph. Do not burden readers with too many numbers in the body of the text; less-important numbers should be relegated to accompanying tables. The language itself should be kept clear, concise and simple, such as:
- Use short sentences
- Keep the text simple and short
- Aim for one idea per sentence
- Try to start each paragraph with the most important message
- Avoid jargon
Remember that plain language is faster to read and gets your message across more often. Monitor your internet stories so you know which ones get the most hits and are most in demand with audiences.