Whether you’re trying to persuade a customer into buying a product, close a deal with a prospective decision maker, or influence a group of company executives, one of the most powerful tools you can use is data.
There have been many studies that show how executives and managers use data in their decision-making process, for example:
However, since you’re already an expert in your industry, It can be easy to assume that the people outside of your role will understand the numbers as much as you do. Truth is, many people outside of your organization won’t have the same level of understanding as you.
This is why data storytelling is so important. By using visuals to convert those numbers into a compelling story, you can transform otherwise boring or confusing numbers into clearly understood concepts. And when your audience truly understands what you’re communicating to them, they are much more likely to take the action you desire.
In this post, we’ll explore:
- What data driven storytelling is and why you need it
- How to develop a strategy for persuasive data storytelling
- Data driven visualizations that tell a story in action
What is data driven storytelling?
Data driven storytelling is the process of transforming a data-based analysis into easily accessible visual forms that influence the business decisions of your target audience. You need to use the right analytical facts that intrigue your potential customers enough that they want to take immediate action on your offerings.
How well you do data storytelling depends on the stories, subjects, visuals, and creativity that you use. When you use cutting-edge tools and technologies, such as Mapsted’s Analyze, to stitch together different metrics and reveal the relationships between them, you are virtually building an entire world of narratives.
What you’ll need to do is pick one or two narratives, find the data that supports it, and build a plot that presents complicated concepts in a form that a person now well-versed in the subject matter can understand.
Show. don’t tell. People prefer visuals. Infact, over 90% of the information stored in our brain is in the form of visuals. Combining creative content with associated visuals increases engagement as compared to blogs, articles, and whitepapers that use only text. Using Mapsted’s data visualization and visual analytic tools will help you create interactive and visually-appealing presentations that offer actionable insights.
How to create the right data driven storytelling strategy
Data driven storytelling has the ability to help your business influence the decisions of any potential client, customer, or partner. To find the perfect balance between data and creative writing, you need to implement a strategy.
As you can see from the diagram above, a narrative helps explain data, visuals help engage content consumers, and data provides the insight to convince the customer to do something. When all three elements come together in harmony, they help bring about change in the form of sales, project or process buy-in, or conversions.
When you package up your insights as a data story, you build a bridge for your data to the influential, emotional side of the brain.
In order to create the right data driven storey, you must create a compelling narrative. No matter how creatively you package your data, it should not bore your audience. The whole purpose of data driven storytelling is to capture your potential customers’ attention, and this involves creating a storyline or narrative. If you’re at a loss as to how to present your data story, you can take a cue from the old “ Choose Your Own Adventure” books you grew up with. Let your audience choose the story they see. By using Mapsted’s Analyze, and interactive visualization, you can keep your audience involved in your content.
While you want your data driven story to be engaging and compelling, you must be objective. There are many documented cases of businesses manipulating data to fit their desired narratives. While the numbers in these studies were left untouched, the way they were presented led audiences to false conclusions.
One infamous case of data manipulation involved the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. state of Georgia. An article in Atlanta magazine recounted how the official state COVID dashboard showed data in non-chronological order as if to lead users to believe that the infection trend was going down:
The error above was just one of many mistakes that the dashboard’s users discovered. There was an overall sentiment that the data was not being handled carefully enough. Many users even believed that there was an attempt to make the data fit a narrative that was far from what was actually going on.
When you do data visualization and storytelling, your credibility is at stake. Maintaining your objectivity and sticking to the facts will help you maintain your brand’s credibility.
Whether you’re writing for end-users, casual readers, CEOs, or tech evangelists, good data storytelling transforms otherwise confusing or boring data into compelling visuals that get remembered, influence decisions, and spur action.
Data storytelling should always begin with respect—both for the data and for your readers. Let the data drive your narrative, and use the visuals to empower your audience to make informed decisions.