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By Anthony Olabode Ayodele Chart.PR, MCIPR, FIIM IDM CPD Award 2017 & 2018
Like many other PR practitioners, I have had my share of struggles with surveys; from the bothersome nature of conducting them and getting members of the public to participate to the bore of having to fill them out.
There’s also the issue of presentation. Many don’t like sifting through graphs and tables and can’t make much out of practitioners’ notes. This could change though considering the latest developments in visual/interactive journalism. For example, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently moved its Beta platform Visual ONS onto the main ONS site.
A CIPR panel led by Stephen Waddington (Found Chart.PR FCIPR) recently published a list of AI tools that could be employed by PR practitioners. The panel requested input from other practitioners and produced an initial 95 tools. I was one of the contributors, suggesting Google’s Machine Learning Language API as a tool for Sentiment Analysis to the panel.
Visual and interactive journalism employs Artificial Intelligence (AI) both to collect and present data. It turns what is the norm for doing so currently, on its head, as is the case with the ONS’ tool.
Tagged ‘You Draw it’ the idea itself was taken from The New York Times (NYT). The uniqueness in these tools is seen in how they collect and present data.
So how do these tools work? Through interactive graphs, instead of answering a set of questions or providing raw figures/data, you are invited to draw a line to indicate how you think a trend relating to the survey question will play out. To aid you, several lines samples are provided, indicating what a particular curve or straight line indicates on the graph.
When done you are prompted to click an 'I'm done' button and then invited to compare the actual graph trend or the aggregate trend of all respondents to yours. I had a go at one such survey in the New York Times, ‘How Family Income Predicts Children’s College Chances’. Compared to reality, mine was considered 94% correct.
John Nixon, who produced the graphs for ONS, said this about the tool: “We have had our eyes on this concept as it draws the user in by making them think rather than just being shown. This method is not only a bit of fun but actually helps people remember the trend.”
Another example of visual journalism is via the use of tree maps (embedded interactive). These are interactive visual squares or rectangles indicating what percentage a sub-group visually serves as a percentage of a set of results (e.g. Transport and Food as sub-groups under family spending). Each shape is given a sub-title and when clicked, opens to a new visual or level which further breaks down data within that sub-group.
Naturally, one might require knowledge of coding (few PR practitioners do) or be a digital science communicator to produce such graphs; but considering how useful interactive visual surveys would be for PR Practitioners – aside from making respondents more eager to make an input - and survey results faster and easier for readers to understand - acquiring the necessary skill set could be worth thinking about if you often use surveys in your work.
Of course, there are also the challenges of digital and AI technology. You can read more about what I’ve written about this and on the subject with visuals and links to examples on my website.
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