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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies, and the PR Objective

This week's flap about my quoting of comScore statistics (via MediaPost) requires a short discussion about statistics and how they can be "framed" (others say manipulated) by the press and by marketers to suit their own needs.

Ms. Luke's email said I was incorrect in earlier post, but in fact, my logic was on target. Of all of the directories listed on the MediaPost chart, YellowBook grew the fastest between Q1 2006 and 2007, and I even took pains to point out that the company is much smaller than the competition to provide context.

Since she does PR for YellowPages.com, she would rather we wrote that of the 5 most visited directory sites, YellowPages.com grew the fastest, which is also a true statement. We can both be correct, but the context is different because the objective of the writer was different.

Statistics (which is what my B.S. from Temple says I majored in) can easily be shaped to the ends of the person quoting them, so be careful what you believe. Any stat can be considered revealing in isolation, but the entire story should be told.

To wit, these are all accurate headlines that I could have written based on the comScore data:

Yahoo and Idearc See Fewer Searches
YellowPages Can't Catch Yahoo, Idearc
Microsoft Last in Directory Category
No Change in Directory Rankings

See? Give me a pile of numbers and I can create more stories than Steven King on amphetamines.

When communicating (be it PR, marketing, or journalism) , what you leave out is often more important than what you put in. So keep a few grains of salt on your desk, and take as needed.

By John Gartner at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

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