Data storytelling is a type of storytelling that is centered on using data to create a story for a specific purpose. Like most storytelling types, it is used to connect with audiences on a more personal and emotional level. It can be a great tool to use in business and marketing. And that is why it is important to master and incorporate it into communications.
What is it?
Data storytelling is a type of storytelling that companies use to create and support their narrative with data. It is very similar to brand storytelling because it uses specific narrative techniques to draw audiences in. However, data storytelling is based on providing insight into the narrative and supporting it by using data.
While you might think of never-ending numbers and thousands of spreadsheets, these are but a small part of data storytelling. Think of the data collection and filtering as one half, which is data analytics. The hard skills, so to speak. On the other hand, data representation and visualization in a way that is easy to understand and communicate are the soft skills part of the job. Which is called data storytelling.
Why do you need to use data storytelling?
A data storyteller is a professional that can use data to communicate and create a narrative to support the organization. They bring life to the data provided by data analysts. With these non-technical skills, the effort put up by technically skilled personnel pays off.
Data analysis without a means to communicate what it means has no point. And this is where data storytelling comes in. You can think of data storytelling as the last pit-stop in data analytics. And it can be used to convert passive audiences into active customers if done correctly. Moreover, it plays into emotional connections and helps you stand out from your competitors.
What data storytelling is and what it is not.
Many people have used data storytelling in contexts, such as dashboard metrics, visualization graphs, etc. It is a word that people have misunderstood and misused in most contexts they use. While data visualizations and representation are important parts of data presentation, they are not data storytelling.
1. What data storytelling is not:
- Data visualization, such as graphs, pie charts, etc.
- Dashboards that provide metrics, etc.
- Annotated forms of data representations (texts that explain graphs, etc.)
- A condensed textual form of data graphs
2. What data storytelling is:
- Texts that communicate data
- Helps understand context and data better
- Provides insight into the provide data representations in an easily understood manner
How to master data storytelling?
Data storytelling is a skill much like data analysis. And you can work on it and improve upon it with time and commitment. To be able to spin a narrative using data analytics takes a lot of creativity and communication skills. You not only need to craft a coherent narrative out of the data. But you also need to make sure that you are reaching and connecting with your target audience.
Who is your audience?
People create different content for different purposes. And tailoring your content to fit the audience is the best way to connect with them. So, are you aiming your content at CEOs and stakeholders of a company? Or are you aiming at the marketing team? Or is your audience your customers? In any form of content certain, knowing your target audience is crucial. And that is the same for data storytelling. Understand your demographic before you create content.
What is the core message in this narrative?
What do you want your audience to take away from your content? This is the information or the keywords that you want your audience to leave with. Maya Angelou once said, “people will never forget how you made them feel.” So, focus your data storytelling on creating a narrative that is relevant and connects with your audiences. Keep it coherent and related to the objective of the content. Good storytellers evolve the entire story around the key message throughout the narrative.
What is the purpose of data storytelling?
What is the objective of creating the content? Is it to educate, or to get your audience to take action? Or is it to boost sales or traffic? Make it very clear in the content what you want your audience to do. Providing CTAs is a simple and effective way to achieve desirable actions from your audiences.
How to communicate it effectively?
Pick statistics or numerics that are relevant to the narrative and nothing else. You do not want to bombard your audiences with data just because you have it. Be selective in what you include in the narrative and why you include it. Your task is to provide insight and help your audience understand your content. This means that you need to be cohesive as well as coherent. Any insight that does not provide value to the customer is a waste of time, resources, and money. You do not want your audience to feel fatigued when they read your content. Pick data that resonates with your audience, instead of data that is relevant.
How do you support your data storytelling?
Use data representations and visualization where and when you can. It not only provides the reader with a break from texts but it also can be used to give data in a simple and easy-to-understand way. Remember that data storytelling and data visualization go hand in hand. They are used together to support the other and maximize impact. According to Ashley Fell, human brains process visuals 60,000x better than texts.
As a data storyteller, you need to be intentional about what you use and when. This applies to the narratives as much as it does to the visuals. Your visuals and content should complement each other.
How do you get better?
One way to do that would be to take courses. There are many online courses that you can take for data storytelling to help you build the foundations. Other than that, practice is the best option. Once you have the basic skills in place, keep practicing. Use different styles and techniques. Write for different audiences and on different topics. This will help you hone your skills. Moreover, it is an excellent way to build skills for different niches or industries.