The content you produce competes with thousands of other businesses out there and the overwhelming amount of information available on the Internet. People process around 100,500 words online every day. One way to stand out is with a strong story — people love a good story. Storytelling with data, however, is even more powerful. The human brain processes visual images much faster than words, so combining storytelling with data helps your brand stand out from competitors.
Knowing you need storytelling to make your data more interesting is one thing, but figuring out the best ways of incorporating that data is another. Here are nine suggestions for combining storytelling with data.
1. Discover a Theme
Before you tell a story with data, you must first figure out the theme of that data and the tale behind it. Creating a story that makes dry information more interesting isn’t easy.
Start by thinking about an example the data applies to. For instance, if you have data for your client that shows using their B2B service increases revenue 10 percent, start by telling the story of one of your clients who used the product and turned things around for their business.
2. Find Your Opening Hook
Storytelling with data works best when following basic good storytelling guidelines. Think about the last time you read an article or book. Did the opening line grab your attention and make you keep reading?
A good opening hook is relevant to the topic and pulls you in.
3. Choose a Format
Storytelling with data isn’t only about creating infographics or blog posts. There are numerous ways of telling a story through data, including:
- Interactive visualizations
- Bubble charts
- Line graphs
Infographics and blog posts are most common, but there are dozens of other options.
4. Explain a Process
Once you choose a format, explain the process a step at a time, taking the reader from the beginning to the middle to the end of the story. Remember the basics of story structure and chart out the major points, so you don’t create any holes in the storytelling.
Sketch out an illustration of the process, starting at the top with the basic facts and getting more specific as you write or design the story.
5. Add Credibility
When users first land on your blog, website or social media page, they may not know anything about your brand. Consumers have no inherent reason to trust you, so you have to gain their trust. Lend credibility to your data storytelling by showing readers where you got the information.
If you’ve ever written a research paper, you likely remember you have to back up your claims and prove your points with resources. Data storytelling is no different. Even if you’re using data from internal studies, explain in detail where the information came from and why it’s reliable.
6. Capture Emotions
Tapping into the emotions of your customers isn’t always easy, but data visualizations help. Leveraging negative emotions might work better than taking advantage of positive ones. One study showed headlines with negative superlatives had a 63 percent higher click-through rate.
Find the pain point for your users and tap into the emotion it evokes. For example, if you sell counseling sessions for recently divorced men, their pain point could be loneliness or a sense of failure. Understand your target audience and what they’re feeling.
7. Relate the Story to Your Audience
Connect to your audience by using “you” rather than generic, impersonal terms such as “one.” Using the second person gives your writing a more conversational and casual feel and draws the reader in.
- When the pantry is empty, one must spend a lot at the store filling it back up.
- When the pantry is empty, you must spend a lot filling it back up.
See how the second example is more personal? Adding second-person language creates a less formal tone.
8. Create Interactive Storytelling
One way of presenting complex data is through interactive storytelling. Allow your readers to adjust the story and create a path for themselves.
For example, if you’re telling a story that includes timeline data, allow the user to adjust the date and see how a map or image changes over time. There are many different methods for creating interactive graphics and storylines, and which you choose depends on the story you’re telling.
Study how others use interactive infographics for creative ideas on presenting your data.
9. Remember a Call to Action (CTA)
Storytelling with data should include a CTA that you personalize to your specific audience segment. Creating a targeted CTA converts about 42 percent more visitors into leads than non-targeted CTAs.
Your CTA should lead the visitor to take whatever step you want them to take, and be easy to find on the page. Make sure there’s enough white space around your CTA button that it stands out.
Thinking through the different steps in the storytelling process results in stronger stories for your readers. People are savvy to advertising, so offering them a story provides something more exciting and different for the consumer. Data storytelling is a powerful tool for growing your leads.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.