Using Data to Create a Story

As marketers, we have access to so much data and statistics, it’s easy to get overloaded or to get lost in the numbers. We’re often analyzing and creating insights out of the data we gather and trying to make the best business decisions possible that will ultimately make our customers and our employers happy. With so much data to share, how do we convey it to others, especially since the attention spans of people are lower than ever?

Data by itself, often leaves people confused or can be easily forgotten. Visualized data helps people interpret the data much easier than its non-illustrative counterpart. But data visualizations that are turned into a storytelling experience that is likely to be remembered. How exactly does one tell a story with data? Well, they typically do it in 3 steps:

Figure out the core message(s) you want to convey (aka your narrative)
The most important thing to consider is what information is imperative or most insightful for your audience. You’re making a visualization for other people to understand, not for yourself. Not every piece of information will be important, but you need to understand what data insights will be necessary for a customer or employer to make a decision.

Use visuals
Using visuals is easily one of, if not the, most important parts of storytelling with data. People process images much faster than they do plain data, so it’s important to make your visuals easy to read and visually appealing to the eye. Visuals include infographics, charts and graphs, images, videos, drawings, and presentations.

Finally, structure your data visualizations
As aforementioned, people have very short attention spans. Because of this, you want to put a list or put the most important data visualizations on the top of your presentation, dashboard, report, etc. Anything beyond that is likely not going to be given the same attention as the top items.

For example, I recently had to build out a dashboard for a marketing campaign that I ran on Google Ads. Since I know my audience, in this case, is my boss, my storytelling narrative is going to focus on items that are important to his needs. Items such as click-through rates, conversion rates, costs, and costs per clicks are necessary for him to determine the success of my campaign. Because of this, I listed scorecards and charts related to all of those KPIs at the top of my dashboard and more detailed data such as daily bounce rates, demographics, and sessions per page on the bottom of my dashboard.

Ultimately the goal in creating stories with data is to educate, enlighten, and engage with your audience. If you follow those three steps, then you’re sure to create some amazing stories with data that do all three.

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