Pitching surveys to news media — what could go wrong?

Nowadays, reporters ask PR people, “How many people are in the survey?”

Your answer needs to be 1,000. If it’s not, you are probably out of luck.

Reporters might ask about methodology. Your answer or lack thereof may kill the survey’s chances of getting covered, even if you had the magic minimum number of 1,000 respondents.

Why? The reporter’s job is to vet information. Their reputation depends on it. And it’s in everyone’s best interest for reporters to be picky, so no groaning. 🙂


Chart from www.pewresearch.org

Reporters didn’t create the magic number; scientists did. If you took statistics in college (I did), you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, take a look at this chart.

I pulled it off the Pew Research Center website.

It shows that survey results are not trustworthy unless you reduce the margin of error by surveying at least 1,000 people.


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Lauren Edwards is a former reporter for the Associated Press. She has been creating, customizing and delivering workshops for science and technology teams since 2000.

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