Thursday, January 24, 2008

Use Easy-to-Digest Facts to Make Your Case with the Media

Want to create a compelling case for your story? Captivate the media with statistics that are easy for the average viewer or reader to digest or absorb.

The Natural Resources Defense Council did a good job of that this morning on a Today Show report (video: kids helping to save trees) about how to ask companies to stop sending you catalogs. During an interview promoting the NRDC's catalog-opt-out site, CatalogChoice, spokesperson Kate Sinding not only offered impressive numbers, she put them in context for viewers:
  • The 19 billion catalogs printed annually use 53 million trees. CONTEXT: That's like clear-cutting 2,000 Central Parks each year.
  • The site has helped 500,000 users opt out of 5 million catalogs. CONTEXT: Those catalogs would fill 225 Olympic-sized swimming pools. They equal the energy used to power 3,500 homes annually or the global warming impact of taking 600,000 cars off the road.
I don't even need to understand what reducing the number of catalogs by 5 million has to do with power generation for those 3,500 homes. As a viewer, I'm stuck on the impressive numbers and how they are translated into mental pictures.

How does this example help the rest of us? If you've got a great story to tell but you're having trouble getting the media interested, it could be in your presentation. In the right situation -- where statistics are available and meaningful -- you can use numbers to help make your case and communicate key information.

Nice job, Kate Sinding!

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