Avoid Using Statistics in Promos and Teases
by Graeme Newell
Many producers find that beginning a tease with a statistic helps bolster the importance of their tease. “Nine hundred children were put into foster care in the city.” The first sentence of a tease should always be an attention grabber. It should exclaim, not explain. Anything that requires analysis or critical thinking should be used sparingly. Statistics can take a long time to convey and are often confusing.
After a lifetime of watching politicians use statistics to spin a topic, most of us are very shy about using them to form opinions. As Mark Twain said, “There are liars, damned liars and statisticians.” Statistics work much better in stories, where they can be fully explained and put into context. If you spend a lot of time explaining a statistic in your tease, you’ll probably be forced to leave out other important coverage promises. Don’t use statistics in promos unless they have a real wow factor. “Half of these girls will go to prison.” “One in four of us will die from cancer.”
Most statistics are far less clear. For example, “Fifty thousand Americans suffer from X syndrome.” Is that a significant number? If you’re willing to do the math, you might be able to tell. There are 300 million people in the US. So you would divide the number of people afflicted by the number of people in the country. 50,000 people would be between one and two percent of the population. Obviously no one is going to do math while fighting off the urge to sleep during an 11pm news.
Start teases with the best fact in your story. “Local children are being abused in foster care.” “The mayor says the city’s finances are in shambles.” Then, go on to promise your coverage of that story. Don’t promise the news, promise your coverage of the news.