3 Marketing and PR Statistics lessons I learned from a folk song

3 Marketing and PR Statistics lessons I learned from a folk song

6 November 2013
We love marketing and PR statistics, they capture us and drive our attention, we just need to make sure we use and read them properly.

This morning I listened to the song “Statisticians Blues” by Todd Snider while commuting to work and was reminded of how much I enjoy a good stat. And, more importantly, I remembered how often I take statistics at face value.

Todd is a country folk artist who writes songs that many find both funny and insightful – but that isn’t the point of this article. Today I am amused and inspired by how insightfully Todd paints a picture of how people love stats, accept them readily and don’t care too much about their source/validity. This song wisely points out 3 lessons we should all keep in mind when we read or publish statistics.

For context, you might want to give the song a quick listen (please note, Todd curses a couple times in the song, so may be NSFW):

PR Statistic Lesson #1: stats make us seems smarter than we are

“They say that 3% of people use 5-6% of their brain, 97% use just 3% and the rest goes down the drain, I’ll never know which one I am, but I’ll bet you my last dime, 99% think we’re 3% 100% of the time.”

– Todd Snider, Statisticians Blues

With his special brand of homespun wisdom, Todd is pointing out that most people think they are smarter than they really are, marketers included. In a poetic way, he is using stats to make himself, and his song, seem like its offering legit insight into human intelligence. Simply by inserting real/made up stats we instantly want to listen to what he’s saying, it just sounds so smart… The take away: use stats, they lend credibility and make your content smarter.

PR Statistics Lesson #2: not all statistics are real

“60% of all statistics are made up on the spot.”

– Todd Snider, Statisticians Blues

As marketers, we need to remember to take every stat we read with a grain of salt.: it’s tragically easy to publish an exaggerated, misrepresented, incorrect or entirely fabricated statistic.  You should never try to pass fake stats for real ones: if you use a use a fake stat it had better be part of a joke or simply to prove a point (see conclusion of this article as an example).

When we read a statistic we need to take its source into consideration and understand the writer’s context.  While most writers will offer nothing but legitimate stats, it’s good to absorb statistics with a healthy level of skepticism.

PR Statistics Lesson #3: people believe the statistics they read

“82.4% of people believe them whether they’re accurate statistics or not”

– Todd Snider, Statisticians Blues

Most people instantly believe every statistic that’s placed in front of them; that’s the magical power of using statistics in PR and marketing. As marketers, we have an ethical obligation to use legitimate stats – and it’s comforting to know that if we have a stat to use it will not only be believed, it will also make our argument that much stronger and make us look a bit smarter.

To illustrate these lessons, I have prepared two different concluding paragraphs, one with no stats, and one with completely false/made up stats (for this exercise, pretend they’re real).  Which one is more compelling?

Article Conclusion A – no stats:

“Statisticians Blues” is not only funny; it also reinforces 3 valuable lessons in regards to the statistics we see in countless blog posts, tweets, presentations, etc.  People love stats, so understanding how to use them in your marketing will make you much more effective. Whether you find yourself focusing on building a PR campaign, proving the ROI of a campaign or the writing of a blog post, there’s no denying that a few well placed statistics make all the difference. I admit it, a good statistic in an article will make me click, tweet and like more often than not.

Article Conclusion B – with (made up) stats:

Statisticians Blues, one of Todd’s top 10 hits*, is not only funny, it also reinforces 3 valuable lessons in regards to the statistics we see in countless blog posts, tweets, presentations, etc.  As you know, 99.92%* of people love stats, so understanding how to use them in your marketing will make you at least 62%* more effective. Whether you find yourself focusing on building a PR campaign, proving the ROI of a campaign or the writing of a blog post, there’s no denying that a few well placed stats make all the difference (statistically, placing an average of 5.3 stats per 500 words is optimal*). I admit it, a good statistic in a headline will make me click, tweet and like 96.8%* of the time. How about you?

If you’re 83% in agreement with this article, why not give it a share?  You’re 92% more likely to make friends when you share. *

*Not a real stat – this is made up to illustrate a point.