Communication Matters - our blog on trends and events


Do You Want More Attention? Take a number

I was going to talk about Nate Silver, who since he accurately called the presidential election has been all the rage. Silver, a blogger for The New York Times, correctly called the vote in all 50 states.

Media remain enthralled with Silver and his use of big data to predict the election while the pundits seemed stumped. This certainly benefits Silver – his celebrity comes just in time to promote his book, “The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail But Some Don’t.”

But it isn’t Nate Silver and big data that has captured our attention at Dix & Eaton, which while intriguing doesn’t really affect most of us. It is small data. And how the media are using small data affects all of us.

That is, the media now are working by the numbers. Look at these headlines:

  • 10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You
  • 8 Things You Should Shred Right Now
  • 7 Signs You Shouldn’t Retire Right Now
  • 5 Radical Ways to Rethink Managing the Manufacturing Line
  • 5 Tips for Surviving the Dreaded Business Dinner
  • 5 Ways To Improve Your Customer Visibility
  • 5 Tech Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore
  • 5 Ways to Make Tele-commuting Work for You
  • 5 Trends Driving Traditional Retail Toward Extinction
  • 4 Powerful Words Your Employees Need to Hear
  • 4 Crucial Things “Average Users” Should Know But Don’t
  • 3 Stocks to Watch This Week
  • 1 Conversational Tool That Will Make You Better at Absolutely Everything

I am paying close attention to that last one.

But think about how often you see such headlines. Take a close look at the topics in these headlines.

Check any web site – for health, investment, leadership, lifestyle, management, manufacturing, retail and more – and you will see a growing number of stories with numbers in front of them.

The reason is simple. We all use the web to research business and personal interests. This is the first place we all go for information. And the media know that fact.

So the media are working to make themselves valuable resources by attempting to provide practical advice to their audiences – and in doing so, creating loyalty and attracting advertising.

The media always have used such stories about the 10 best of this, the 10 worst of that, the 10 big events of the last year, the 10 big predictions for the next year. But those, no pun intended, were typically one-off stories. This trend toward stories by the numbers is accelerating fast.

Now this trend has taken some weird  twists. With news of the sex scandal involving General David Petraeus and his resignation from the CIA, one web site ran this story: “7 tips for a top-secret affair.”

At the same time that headline betrays startlingly bad news judgment, it also demonstrates just how entrenched this trend is becoming among media.

What does this mean for you? It means you should start thinking about playing the numbers.

First, use numbers in your releases. These are making a comeback because of the ability to incorporate links, videos and other features that make releases useful to media, which traditionally disliked releases. Use numbers in releases for investors, customers, employees and other audiences – “5 Ways You Can Protect Your Supply Chain.” These releases will get greater pickup and deliver more impact.

Second, use numbers in more ways on your web site. Create more links or even micro sites that lead viewers to messages you want to get across. For example, where you have a page showing the nations around the world where you conduct business, add links like this – “3 Reasons We Are Growing in Asia.”

Third, use numbers in your presentations. Whether speaking to analysts, employees, customers or other groups, make sure you focus on numbers that are important to each group. For example, if you want to recruit and retain more top talent, use numbers in your outreach to people – “2 Reasons Why You Will Love Working With Us.”

Fourth, use numbers in your interviews and pitches. As every genre of media seeks ideas to give practical advice, create your own news with more examples that will get pickup in mainstream media, social media and popular blogs. For example, journalists delight in the idea that they are covering a story no one else has told before, so use this statement – “1 Trend That No News Media Are Talking About.”

Do you want more attention from investors, customers and employees? Take a number.

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