Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Numbers and Pictures 

I've stumbled on two lessons in ethics and accuracy that would be good for PR practitioners to imitate -- sourcing numbers for readers and production of accurate and ethical graphics. The first came from a critique of newspaper columnists who cite statistics but fail to let readers know where they come from. The second is the code of ethics for the Society of News Design. Both strike a chord because twisting numbers to make a point is a common failure and using jiggered graphics for the same reason is pervasive in PR.

There is no excuse for either. In PR we have to be more accurate than the media because the media believe we lie for a living. Our credibility depends on careful presentation. If practitioners were accurate consistently, we wouldn't have the reputation we do among reporters and editors, and they would rely on us with less suspicion.

I'm dreaming, of course. There are too many practitioners who are too sloppy to change the media's belief. We build credibility personally with individual reporters in spite of the PR business. It shouldn't be that way, but it won't change. Too many practitioners are more concerned with selling than with building relationships.


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