What's Your Opinion?

By Ron Rosenberg

your opinion matters phrase handwritten on blackboard with heart symbol instead of O

I was recently searching on the Web for some input on a technical problem that was taking significantly longer to solve than it should have.

After reading some posts on a relevant site, I happened to notice the following statement after one person's signature line:

Everything I write is a personal opinion.
Even when I quote facts, they are the facts I personally choose to accept.

This makes an interesting point about how you write copy for ads and structure your marketing strategies.

Years ago, when I was getting my MBA, I took a course on statistics, which was not all that interesting to me.  What did make the course fun, though, was that we were all required to purchase and read this book:

lie-with-statistics

That's a great title, and the book explains how you can be selective about which statistics you choose to include, and how you decide to present them.

For example, the scale you use on a graph can make the selected data range appear either dramatic or flat, supporting a claim that there has been either radical change over time...or no change at all.

Understanding this can help you in two ways. First, it can help you develop, frame, and present your messages in a way that connects strongly with your audience and helps you get the results you want.

Second, and probably more important, it means that you should be extremely vigilant when you're presented with "factual data." Look closely not only at which data is being presented, but also at which data is being omitted.

For example, when reviewing the results of a survey, look closely at the questions being asked and see if they're truly impartial, or if they're gently leading the respondent towards a particular opinion.

And finally, when "facts" are presented that clearly support the claims being made by a particular company or organization, use your common sense and a bit of simple analysis to make sure you're working with truly accurate data.

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