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Talking Numbers: A Guide to Communicating with Data and Statistics is an essential handbook that public relations professionals and those communicating with numerical information can dip into for advice and guidance on working with data and statistics, and subsequently how to communicate this information themselves.
Clearly and concisely written with simple explanations and narrative case studies, this book is a must have for any communications professional. Evidence currently points out that the principal source of exaggerated research claims stems not from mis-reporting by journalists, but from the contents of the press release. The substantive content of these comes not from the communications professional, but from the guidance they have received from the researchers themselves.
Here communications professionals can shake off such concerns and here seek advice on how to work with researchers, statisticians and data scientists to achieve the right balance between precision, comprehensibility and hype in order to produce their best writing possible.
Topics included are:
- accuracy and precision
- averages - arithmetic mean, median and mode; the use of words such as expected and typical rather than average
- correlation and causation
- data exploration - the basics of finding data and manipulating it to uncover interesting stories; how basic visualisation can help point the way
- probability and coincidence - events that are rare for individuals happen a lot in big enough populations (and how to find interesting examples)
- absolute and relative risk
- rounding numbers - how to present numbers to a sensible level of precision
- sources and referencing
- surveys and polling - including discussion of representativeness of samples, biasing of questions, the problems of self-selection
- targets and performance indicators - including the pitfalls of targets based on comparison to peer-group averages
- trends and blips - including regression to the mean
- visualisation - basics of graphs and charts, and the pitfalls of their representation
Working with numbers, data and statistics in the media has spawned 'data-journalism' Journalists, marketing and PR professionals now need to be statistically literate and here are the tools needed to succeed.