Guest post by Mehdi Hussen.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for building a long-term connection with your audience. It sets great content apart from the average and helps you stand out from competitors.
However, few marketers can truly master the art of storytelling, because they fail to add data points to support the tale they are weaving.
Without data to back up your story, it’s a fanciful yarn that may not resonate with your audience. By weaving data points into your story, you’ll add credibility and depth to your message and create a more memorable and impactful experience for your audience.
This post explores how combining the art of storytelling with hard data can create the most compelling content.
What is data storytelling?
Data storytelling is the art of using data to tell a compelling and engaging story. It’s about using data points to support and illustrate a message or narrative rather than simply presenting raw information and expecting your audience to draw specific conclusions.
By combining the power of storytelling with data, you can create informative, engaging content that connects with your audience on a deeper level. Whether trying to persuade, educate, or simply entertain, data storytelling can help you craft a message that resonates with your audience and leaves a lasting impact.
Why You Need Storytelling + Data In Your Content
Here are five reasons storytelling and data should be integral to your content strategy:
- To convey your message: Storytelling helps you craft a clear and compelling message that resonates with your audience. Adding data to support your story can add credibility and depth to your message, making it more persuasive.
- To hold your audience’s attention: Storytelling is a great way to add interest and keep readers engaged with your content. Adding data to your story can break up the text and add visual interest, which can help hold your audience’s attention for a longer duration.
- To appeal to both their emotional and rational side: Storytelling appeals to people’s emotions, while data appeals to their sense of logic and reasoning. By combining these two, you create content that speaks to both sides of the brain and has a more prominent impact on your audience.
- To influence their decisions: By using data to support your story, you can prove your trustworthiness and persuade your audience to take a certain action or make a decision.
- To encourage action: By using storytelling to inspire and engage your audience, and data to back up your message, you can create content that motivates people to take action. Whether making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or sharing your content with their network, combining storytelling and data can help you stimulate action from your audience.
Neal Taparia, who runs the word game platform Unscrambled Words, adds that PR can benefit when storytelling with data. “We did research on which words were misspelled the most by Americans. While it was meant for our readers, it got picked up by many prominent publications, which drove additional traffic to us.”
How to Create a Data Storytelling Strategy
To develop a compelling data storytelling strategy, follow these six steps.
1. Find your story.
The first step to creating a data storytelling strategy is finding your story and clarifying the objective. This is where you’ll determine the key message you want to convey and the action you want your audience to take.
To find your story, you’ll need to dig into your data and identify trends, patterns, and insights that are interesting and relevant to your audience. For example, this might involve having a team brainstorming meeting to analyze customer behavior, sales data, or market trends.
Once you’ve identified your story, it’s important to be clear about your objective. Do you want to educate your audience, persuade them to take a certain action, or entertain them? Being clear about your objective will help you craft a story that resonates with your audience and inspires them to take the desired action.
As you go through this process, keep your audience in mind and consider what they may consider engaging and meaningful. By finding your story and deciding on your objective early on, you’ll be able to create a data storytelling strategy that connects with your audience emotionally.
2. Keep your audience’s knowledge level in mind.
This step is crucial because it will help you determine the best way to present your information and ensure that your story is engaging and accessible.
There are several factors to consider when understanding your audience’s knowledge level, including their familiarity with the subject matter, their level of expertise, and their professional background.
Adrian Gas, SEO Director of Elite Legal Marketing, says: “Blogging is a great way to get ideal clients to your website. For instance, our company provides SEO services for lawyers, and the content of our blog posts target specifically legal professionals interested in increasing their search visibility on the internet.”
If you are creating for beginners, you’ll want to provide more context and explain key concepts in greater detail. Alternatively, if you are creating for experts, your focus will be on more advanced content, leaving out basic information that would be obvious to your readers.
Another important factor to consider is whether your audience comprises generalists or specialists. Generalists have a broad understanding of a subject and are interested in learning more about it, while specialists deeply understand a specific area within a subject. Depending on your audience, you may need to adjust your story to better meet their needs and expectations.
A content funnel is one way to understand your audience’s knowledge level. This framework helps you structure your content in a way that addresses different knowledge levels.
The top of the funnel will include general information accessible to many people. As you move down the funnel, you can get more specific and targeted with your content, catering to those who are more advanced or specialized.
You can learn from BetterUp and create immersive and insightful reports for your audience based on their knowledge level.
3. Find relevant data.
This step involves understanding the context of your content and then searching and verifying the data. This ensures it’s accurate, relevant, and appropriate for your story.
To start, it’s important to understand the context of your content and what you are trying to achieve with your data storytelling. Are you trying to illustrate a trend or pattern, compare different data sets, or highlight an insight or discovery? Understanding the context of your content will help you focus your search for relevant data and ensure that you are using the right data to support your story.
Once you clearly understand the context of your content, you can search for relevant data. This might involve looking for data from primary sources, such as industry reports, or relying on secondary sources, such as articles or blogs.
As you search for data, it’s important to be mindful of where it comes from and whether it’s reliable and accurate. This might involve vetting the data to ensure it is up-to-date or verifying it with multiple sources to confirm its accuracy.
4. Decide on your data visualization style.
The next step in creating a data storytelling strategy is determining the data visualization style that best supports your message. This involves selecting the right visual content to convey your data effectively.
Many data visualization styles can be chosen, including different types of charts, graphs, maps, and diagrams. Each style has its strengths and can be used in different contexts to illustrate your data best.
You can even go experimental like Spotify in their “2022 Wrapped” campaign:
For example, a line chart might be a good choice for showing trends over time, while a bar chart might be better suited for comparing different data sets. As you choose the right data visualization style for your story, it’s important to keep your audience in mind and select a style that is both engaging and accessible. This might involve using familiar visual elements (such as your logo and brand colors) plus clear labels and annotations, so your audience understands the data.
5. Weave your data into the narrative.
One key way to create a better data storytelling strategy is by adding data naturally to your content piece. This means incorporating data into your story in a way that is seamless and adds value rather than overwhelming your audience or detracting from your message. Two of the most effective are through blog posts and case studies.
Blogs are a great way to share data-driven insights and stories with your audience. By naturally weaving data into your blog post, you can create a compelling narrative to show the significance of your findings and why they should care.
For example, suppose you are writing a blog post about customer behavior. You might include data about how your customers use your product or service, or how their behavior has changed over time.
Case studies are another effective way to add data naturally to your content. You can convincingly illustrate your offerings’ value by showcasing real-world examples of how your product or service has made a difference for specific clients. Customer stories enable you to provide concrete evidence of your impact and make a more compelling case for your business.
Or you can take a cue from Google’s Year in Search and create impactful videos.
6. Edit the piece.
The final step in data storytelling is editing it to ensure your article or post is effective and achieves its intended purpose. Ask yourself questions to ensure your story is clear, engaging, and impactful.
Among the questions you might ask are:
- Does your story convey your intended message and inspire your audience to take the desired action?
- Does it convey facts accurately?
- Have you used concise language and structured your story to enhance the audience’s experience?
- Have you provided enough context for them to understand your story?
- Have you avoided common copywriting mistakes?
By asking these questions and making necessary edits, you can ensure that your data storytelling strategy achieves its intended purpose. Whether you are trying to educate, persuade, or entertain your audience, a well-edited piece will increase your credibility and serve its purpose better.
Now that you’ve created your data storytelling strategy, it’s time to implement it.
The first step is gathering feedback from your team or target audience to ensure your message is clear and effective. This can involve sharing the story with a small focus group, soliciting their thoughts and suggestions, or conducting user testing to see how well your story resonates with your intended audience.
Once you’ve gathered feedback and made any necessary adjustments, it’s time to distribute your content. This can involve sharing your story through social media, publishing it on your website or blog, getting it published on popular industry publication or business websites, or presenting it at conferences and events.
No matter how you distribute your content, the key is to be strategic and targeted in your approach. Consider where your audience will likely engage with your story, and focus on building relationships and connections with them.
By putting your data storytelling strategy into action and gathering feedback, you can create engaging, human-centered content that resonates with your audience and helps you achieve your business goals.
Create the most compelling content with storytelling and data
Our brains require both rational and emotional information to make decisions. While storytelling can create a stronger bond with the audience and inspire them to take action, it’s important not to forget the rational part of our brain.
By combining storytelling and data, you can get the best of both worlds and create compelling content that appeals to the audience’s emotions and their sense of logic. Whether trying to persuade, educate, or simply entertain, combining storytelling with data is the key to creating content that connects with your audience on a deeper level and leaves a lasting impact.
Mehdi Hussen is a SaaS marketing and organic growth consultant. He helps SaaS businesses drive organic growth and customer acquisition through SEO and data-driven content marketing strategies. Mehdi spends his spare time musing about startup growth strategies, personal productivity, and remote work. Connect with him through Twitter or LinkedIn.