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The Simple Recipe for Data Storytelling

Posted by Emily Hegland on April 23, 2021

With the rise of advanced analytics and a wealth of data to work with, marketers have a powerful tool at their disposal: data storytelling. But what is data storytelling? And how can you make the most of it? 

It goes beyond simple data visualization – the charts and graphs your analytics tools churn out. It’s more than stats on a slide. It’s what happens when you match those data-rich visuals with something human. A story.  

Here’s a simple way of thinking about it... 

Hard data + human connection = data storytelling. 

When you add words, emotion and narrative to data, you get something special. You get a story backed up by proof. It’s a powerful one-two punch of emotion and logic, woven together and supporting one another. 

Why is data storytelling important?

Well, data storytelling has been proven to significantly boost reader engagement. Let’s break it down... by the numbers. According to Infogram, content that incorporates data saw: 

  • 16%-34% more comments and shares 
  • 65% – 100% lift in average session duration
  • Up to 317% improvement on depth of scroll 

So, if your content isn’t getting the engagement you expect, you should explore how you can incorporate data into your stories.  

Data storytelling appeals to both visual and non-visual learners. Instead of blocks of text or indecipherable charts and numbers, data storytelling marries the two. This middle ground can help keep readers’ attention in a dwindling attention economy. Let’s be honest: most people prefer to skim, so data storytelling can help rope people in before they get distracted and move on to the next thing. 

Data storytelling reinforces credibility. There is more data available to us than ever, so the ingredients of data storytelling have never been easier to come by. And its an opportunity to distinguish your brand from competition. It's easy to toss a graph in with a wordy article, but only a handful are taking advantage of data storytelling. And with all the information that’s out there... there’s also a wealth of fake news. A data-driven approach is bound tbecome client-demanded.  

How can you create effective data storytelling? 

Step 1. Know the audience you’re marketing to before crafting the story. Ask yourself: why should my audience care about this? What kind of questions would they have? Does this answer those questions? Is it relevant to their lives?  

Step 2. Give your story a beginning, middle and end. It may seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done. The beginning: invite curiosity, pose a question, tell an anecdote... anything to get your audience’s attention. Then, get to the meat in the middle. Finally, wrap it up with a bow. You can bookend it with details from the beginning, give your audience a call to action, or leave them with a new question to ponder. Follow this arc and you can’t go wrong.  

Step 3. Be conversational. Don’t get bogged down by the technical details of the data. Boil down the details into digestible nuggets of information, in plain English. You’re not “dumbing it down”... you’re meeting people where they’re at. As Don Draper says: “Make it simple, but significant.  

Step 4. Focus on content that is easily shareable. Give it some visual appeal... you want something that makes people stop scrolling and get excited. And it never hurts to optimize images for sharing on various social media platforms.  

What does it look like? 

Data storytelling can take many forms.  

One example of data storytelling is a strong infographic. Check out these examples from J&C: 

But data storytelling can also be deeply personal. Companies that have vast amounts of first-party data can create striking, shareable data stories that truly resonate with their customers. Take Spotify’s annual “Wrapped” feature. It shows users their year in music, through their favorite genres, eras and top-played songs. Members are excited to see themselves in the data and eager to share and compare with other users. This kind of data storytelling cuts through the noise and gets to the core of what people want: a good story... backed up by data... that’s truly relevant to them.  

J&C is made up of experts in the art and science of customer engagement. If you need help developing data-driven communications, contact J&C today

Topics: Digital Marketing, Data Marketing

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