What does math have to do with PR?

We had an interesting conversation with a client recently in which she was bemoaning the things she wished she paid more attention to during her school days. In her case, it was foreign language.

For me, it’s math. I always enjoyed math in high school and actually considered trigonometry one of my favorite subjects. However, an English major in college has little need for math, so I took the bare minimum of classes needed for graduation.

Fast forward a number of years, and I sure am glad I paid attention in high school because math is playing an increasing role in the work of PR pros:

  1. The infographic trend requires PR pros to understand basic statistics. It’s not uncommon for a client to hand us raw data and ask us to pull out interesting tidbits for use in infographics and white papers.
  2. White papers, marketing materials and other content–both technical and non-technical–often are written and proof read by PR pros, so it’s important to have a good understanding of percentages and other concepts. We frequently point out math mistakes we find in material written by clients. As part of our proof reading, we always look at the math.
  3. When developing story ideas to bring to reporters, we love to have facts and figures to back up our story lines. We often do our own research or look to our clients to provide relevant metrics. We challenge our clients when numbers don’t seem right because reporters rely on us and expect our information to be accurate.
  4. It’s important to understand audience and circulation figures and to be able to explain them to clients. It’s also important to be able to spot claims from media that can’t be true. We recently received audience figures for a local television program claiming “8,000 viewers (in thousands),” which is 8 million. Considering the metropolitan area is about 2 million people, we were just a tad skeptical of these figures.
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