Avoid communications that fudge the figures

Grant Samuel Funds Management rebrands
March 27, 2019
Why Active ETFs continue to shine
April 1, 2019

Many an article, blog or media release, is spoiled because they quote numbers that are misused or simply don’t add up.

These sorts of mistake can encourage readers to question all the information in the article or blog – as well as the credibility of the author. See what you think.

“We achieved an audience reach of 75 million”

In a country with a population of 25 million, this is quite an achievement! The reality is, probably a lot less than 50% of us saw the story, meaning everyone else has to see it more than six times each (which is itself unlikely).

This double-dipping is prevalent in many areas. For example, claiming “over a million people watched the Football League last season” when in fact some people watch several games in a season.

“Fund returns were 150% up on last year”

This suggests the returns increased 2½ times, when what was really meant was a 50% increase.

“Fred has two times more money than Sam” 

The intention was to say that Fred is twice as much money as Sam, but this ugly way of writing instead says he has three times the money.

Generally, it’s best to simply say “Fred is twice as wealthy as Sam”.

“8,173 people will divorce every month this year” 

I don’t know how many people will divorce each month, but one thing is for sure – it’s not going to be an odd number. It’s also unlikely to be the exactly the same number every month unless you have “on average” in the quote.

This type of mistake can happen when an annual figure is taken, divided by 12 and used without further checks.

“As few as 12,000 clients may be affected”

This is fine if it is only 12,000 clients. But if the true position is that somewhere between 12,000 and 200,000 clients may be affected by a problem, and the organisation later has to admit that the final count shows the higher number is involved, it will extend the crisis and make management look incompetent.

People do get tempted to put the best spin on information they need to communicate, but playing with the figures can come back to bite them.