9 out of 10 survey stories are self-serving*

This week a PR Week story popped up on our Twitter feed: 41% of PR agencies said their client budgets have increased significantly during the last quarter of the year. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Hold on a minute, for every 41% growing significantly, there must be 59% which aren’t doing quite as well, right?

With my interest piqued, I feel victim to the clickbait and clicked through to the story, which was based on some research by the PRCA. It soon became apparent that the tweet wasn’t an altogether accurate summary of the actual survey. In reality, 41% of agency bigwigs said their client budgets had grown significantly or marginally over the last quarter.

So that 59% is actually doing worse than that tweet led us to believe. At best, their budgets are flat. At worse, their fees are shrinking.

Even more interestingly, PR Week’s editorial on the research described the feeling in the industry as ‘marginally optimistic.’  Goodness, us PRs must be half-glass full kind of people.

Call me an old cynic (both accurate), but isn’t the real story that 59% of PR agencies saw no growth in Q2 2018? I guess that’s a headline that PR Week readers and PRCA members (ie. PRs) don’t want to hear, so let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good headline.

Which leads me on to an altogether weirder survey conclusion, pointed out by the good folks at Computer Weekly last month.

Its blog is well worth the read, but in essence it received a press release from an undisclosed brand that declared ‘Almost three-quarters of London startups staying put despite Brexit uncertainty.’ 

Forget the upbeat tone of this headline, there is little reason for London to rejoice.

It turns out that 28% of the startups surveyed are thinking about upping sticks and leaving the Capital. Like the Computer Weekly team, I’m finding it hard to see this as anything other than a negative story.

The (again, undisclosed) PR agency charged with pitching the story agreed – at least to begin with.

When it spoke to Computer Weekly it explained it originally went with the ‘28% might leave’ angle. However, when they started to pitch the story to press outlets, it soon became apparent that there was more of an appetite for positive Brexit stories, so they just switched the emphasis in the pursuit of media coverage. Easy as that.

A reminder that the stats that don’t make the headlines are the ones that we should be thinking about.

*statistic entirely made up for the purposes of audience enticement