The study made the top story on BBC News health section
The map helped drive the story to the top of the BBC News health section.

Today the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Scotland launch their “Mapping the Dementia Gap” study, and new partnership with Tesco, with a bit of help from the team at Claremont. Combining traditional health PR with digital, we’re showing the data behind the half a million people who will have undiagnosed dementia in 2021.

We’re big fans of data journalism and love to combine PR’s sense for the story with digital’s ability to engage. The push for open data and transparency is making these skills vital, but having the data is one thing – how do you put it towards achieving your comms objectives? How do you make it accessible and relevant to your audience? How do put your data to work beyond your own website?

Here’s a few tips if you want to use data to tell your story:

  1. Break the silos – get your number crunchers talking to your press officers, your policy people talking to your comms agency. This will be a collaborative effort
  2. Clean your data – rarely will your data be shipshape and ready to go. Start looking for the gaps that will need filling; try to standardise how it’s organised; and be prepared to source the extra data you’ll need
  3. Think visual – find the right designer to bring the data to life through visualisation and interaction
  4. Test early and often – get a prototype running as soon as you can and iterate rapidly to get the data looking just right
  5. Keep it simple stupid – most people aren’t used to navigating data so focus on the key message with the option to drill deeper

The map itself is shown below. It organises the data into UK health authorities, with England automagically flipping from Strategic Health Authorities to the smaller Primary Care Trusts as you zoom in. A simple red-to-green overlay vividly shows the varying diagnosis rates. You can search to find more detail for your own area, and then get a link for sharing or embedding the map. This is key for local media who will be able to show the map focused on their city or region.

The map was put together in double-quick time to coincide with the Tesco announcement and we had to leave some ideas on the cutting room floor, so look out for new versions in future.

UPDATE: The study got some great coverage on BBC News (where it was the top health story), Daily Mail, Telegraph, The Scotsman, Daily Express and Mirror.

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