Tip for Executive Spokespersons: Beware of numbers that don’t tell your story!

7.1 million iPads sold in 2010. China’s population is projected to be 1.4 billion by the end of 2011. Those are big and impressive numbers.

Tyler Perry’s movie grossed almost $26 million during it’s debut weekend. That already large number sounds even more significant when compared with two other movies that also debuted this past weekend: “Water for Elephants” grossed $17.5 million and “African Cats” grossed only $6.4 million ($20 million dollars less than “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family”).

What about the fact that there are forty concert grand pianos in the basement of Steinway Hall in NYC?¬†Forty raises more questions than it answers. How large is a concert grand piano? What does a room look like filled with forty pianos? Are the pianos in the basement dusty and decrepit…unsellable? What happens when we add to the story that those forty pianos are waiting to be requested by one of the world’s top performing artists as their piano of choice during a concert performance or recording? With just a little more context, the number forty is actually quite significant!

How about when a company announces that it has fourteen research experts in major markets around the globe. What does the number fourteen tell us? Not much — in fact it seems a bit paltry — unless we know that the company’s two top competitors combined only have eleven.

Executive spokespersons are encouraged to include ¬†statistics when talking with the media about corporate or product announcements. They just need to make sure that the data they share isn’t just a number.

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