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Numbers and Storytelling

2020 was the year of numbers. Never has the world been more fixated with figures, eagerly awaiting the latest update on COVID-19 infections, US Election outcomes and bushfire status reports. Undoubtedly, numbers are important regardless of industry, division, stage, age, experience or sector. They can influence how we approach future events, provide insight into current trends or frame outcomes.

More than anything numbers tell stories.

They add relevance to the conversation and provide context to people and situations. Numbers are subjective to interpretation. Knowing how to interpret numbers takes skill and expertise. It’s a skill that we take great pride and joy at The Media Precinct. Partly due to the media world we operate in but mainly driven by our passion to understand what’s happening around us, the impact and people involved that gives our clients and projects a competitive edge and strategic direction in market.

Much of the conversation around numbers focuses on data, specifically big-data. But how useful is data if it’s interpreted incorrectly? To help clients and marketers get the most of their data and number set, we’ve developed best practices:

Know your source

How reliable is your source? Do you understand the methodology, how data is collected and where these figures come? Knowing the methodology and source gives credibility to the data you’re reporting on. This may also skew your understanding of how impactful a statistic is if the volume/collection pool may be limited or if you are using fused data. Numbers are only as good as the source they come from.

Choose quality over quantity

We are proud to say we have the largest research resource available at an independent media agency ranging from consumer panels and bespoke research through to the world advertising research council at our fingertips. Generally the greater a variety of data sources the more robust layers of intricate details of a person’s life, category challenge or competitor space we’re able to uncover. However volume of sources doesn’t necessarily translate into good strategy or insight. As our industry places a great focus on data, we’re finding a lack of understanding when it comes to questioning the quality of data. As much emphasis is placed on data or numbers, Marketers need to look beyond the numbers. A good marketer should able to understand the impact, context and significance of their data source to determine the value these numbers have. Like anything in life there’s qualitative and quantitative and more often than not quality data is empirical to the story we are uncovering or telling.

Big Stories in small numbers

Don’t immediately discount smaller figures which can tell us as much about an audience, company, or situation as a high volume figure. This also applies to the number of sources used to validate your campaign. Focusing on key select data sources of greater quality may provide greater insight and robust findings compared to a larger volume of sources that may not tell you much about the project, person or situation.


What insight or value do these figures provide? What do they tell us about the situation? A strong number should be able to demonstrate its value with little persuasion. It should tell a story and convey significance and context to the point you’re wishing to convey.

Following these simple best practices gives great insight and understanding of the category, people and context we’re working in, often underlining our campaign and communication strategies in markets for clients. The true value of these tips also extend beyond work into personal life and we hope you find them as useful as our valued clients do.

Written by Julie Attwood, Planning Director at The Media Precinct.


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