5 Best Practices for Crafting Data-Driven Stories

1/18/2016

5 BEST PRACTICES FOR CRAFTING DATA-DRIVEN STORIES

A big challenge for B2B marketers is being able to demonstrate the power of data in a meaningful way. When sharing your marketing’s performance, it should come across in a clear, captivating way, no matter the audience. Hopefully you’ve already been collecting data for your marketing efforts to see where you can optimize and improve. If so, congratulations! You’ve already won half the battle. Now let’s talk about how you can craft your own compelling, data-driven stories from that information.

1. Know your audience. Do yourself a favor and first evaluate your audience. Who are they? What are their expectations of you and of the data you’re providing? How much familiarity do they have? How will it impact them? What is the most useful knowledge you can give them? What kind of action do you want them to take based on the data?

2. Create a story around the data that’s meaningful and compelling. Besides collecting and finding the value within the analysis of the data, the most difficult part is being able to connect it with a story. In order to be truly effective, you have to relate to the audience on both an intellectual and an emotional level. And that means you need to become a captivating storyteller.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton talks about what to keep in mind when crafting stories in his TED Talk, The clues to a great story. Here are a few that resonated with me:

  • The number one rule of a good story is to make your audience care
  • Promise the audience that the story will be worth their time
  • The elements you provide and the order in which you place them are crucial to whether you succeed in engaging the audience or not
  • If it’s possible, allow your audience to surrender to wonder
  • Focus on your personal strengths as you tell your story

3. Identify your medium. What’s the best format to use to convey your story? For example, is it a presentation? A video? An email? Something else? Identify the medium that will engage and resonate with your audience the most. But remember to be kind to yourself: Also think about the time you’ll need to dedicate to put the story together in the medium you choose. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but definitely don’t take on too much.

4. Use data visualizations well. You need to be able to bring data to life in an appealing way to support the story. The visualization of data is powerful when it displays the findings in a way that’s attractive, clear and easy to understand; and if needed to, the visual should stand on its own. You can learn how to do this effectively by looking at examples of data journalism. If this is a new concept to you, a great place to start is to follow The Guardian DataBlog, where they regularly publish stories based on data. Another excellent source is Simon Rogers’s book, Facts are Sacred.

Here’s a good example of a data visualization from Simon Rogers.

5 BEST PRACTICES FOR CRAFTING DATA-DRIVEN STORIES

Image Credit: Facts are Sacred: Cost of Bringing up Baby Photograph: Guardian

5. Edit yourself. Your information and your story need to be digestible for your audience. Often, we make things more complex than they need to be, so it’s best to take a step back and evaluate what you’ve created, and then trim some fat in the editing process. Try to “keep it simple-stupid” (K.I.S.S.) and streamline your work. If you need help doing this, bring in a friend or trusted co-worker to help you through the (sometimes painful) editing process. A fresh perspective could also give you valuable feedback on how your story will resonate with the audience.


About the Author

Leanne Terpak
Analytics Director
Godfrey

As an analytics director, I'm driven by the belief that data can tell a story—and it’s my job to make the story as insightful and actionable as possible.

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