Yes, you’ve heard people drone on about big data. Yes, you’ve heard some people (probably us) talk about why data storytelling is so needed in an era of “alternative facts.” Maybe you’ve even called your team together to talk about potential ideas. But before you send them out into the world in search of that sweet, sweet data. Stop for a second and remember that the best data isn’t “out there.” It’s right in front of you.
Why Internal Data Is Your Best Friend
The most powerful storytelling tool in your arsenal is 100%, hands-down your own data: the stuff living in spreadsheets, hiding out in surveys, and chilling in your client reports. With a little work, you can dive in, explore, extract, parse, and uncover truly compelling stories. But why go to the work to spin stories from your data? Why not use an industry white paper or report that someone else has already done the work to create?
We are living in a world of content, and most of it is rehashed fluff or clickbait. You have one goal in creating content: to provide your reader with something of true value. Guess what? Your own data storytelling contains pure, grade-A value.
How Internal Data Provides Value
When you create any type of communication, what you are really trying to create is a connection with a reader, an enjoyable experience. When you can do that reliably and consistently, you build a strong relationship. The key to doing that through content is to give people stuff that interests them, that they trust, and that they can’t get anywhere else. Data storytelling is the perfect way to do this because it hits all three categories—and then some.
You know your customers better than anyone else. You know what they want, what they struggle with, how they speak, and more. When you use data from outside sources, it is often too broad or too niche. WIth your own data, you know you’re addressing issues and subjects that are interesting to your crowd, whether it’s your customer, colleague, or larger industry.
Example: We turned data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report into an interesting infographic about the ages that entrepreneurs are most likely to pursue their business. For Clarity, a company that connects startup entrepreneurs with business experts, it was a pertinent subject.
This is the possibly the biggest benefit of using your own data. It hasn’t been seen. It hasn’t been rehashed a million times. You are uncovering entirely original insights that you can use to start a conversation. When you provide that type of interesting and unique content, your readers want to keep up with you.
Example: We helped HighFive turn insights from their “Workplace Culture and Communication” report into a shareable infographic, which both promoted the report and told a unique story.
We’ve talked a lot about the value of trust in a brand-consumer dynamic. When it comes to the source of your data, it must be credible. When you use outside data, you can’t always guarantee that the data is accurate. (Certainly, reputable sources exist, but there’s nothing better than something that comes from your own research.)
Example: We collaborated with LinkedIn Marketing Solutions to create the data-packed The Secret Sauce e-book, which shares LinkedIn’s best tips, tricks, and knowledge about marketing on LinkedIn. To promote the e-book, we also created a companion infographic, featuring their own tips and data to back it up. This both demonstrated their expertise and credibility and helped drive people to the e-book—a win-win.
While data storytelling is great for connecting with people, diving into your data can also improve other areas of your organization—even your bottom line.
Benefits to Your Organization
The insights uncovered from your own data have more applications than just infographics and whitepapers. They have tangible and intangible benefits for your organization.
With those unique, original, credible insights, you can establish yourself as a thought leader not just among your customers but among your industry. The information extracted is often indicative of larger industry trends. It may uncover unexpected findings that bust a widely held myth or reveal something entirely new. These are newsworthy discoveries that elevate your status and, if picked up by media, can help you expand your reach. (Find out more about how to create content that publishers fall in love with.)
By revealing your insights, you are welcoming the world into your organization. It shows that you know what you’re talking about. It also shows you have nothing to hide and, in fact, are eager to share your knowledge with others. This fosters tremendous trust both in your customer and in your employees.
When it comes to data vs. gut-instinct decision-making, you know what you’d choose. The more you can learn to interpret your data and really “see” what it’s telling you, the better you can make decisions, justify pivots, or support your initiatives.
How to Start Finding and Telling Data Stories
Just the words “data storytelling” can feel intimidating to content marketers, but it really doesn’t have to be. We’ve helped plenty of people turn their data into awesome content, and it’s a pretty simple step-by-step process.
1) Find your data: Here are 9 sources of great data you can probably find in your own servers.
2) Find the story in your data: Follow our easy guide to uncover the story in your data by examining different data relationships.
3) Craft your story: Learn to craft an effective narrative, and follow these tips to make sure that story reflects your brand.
4) Choose the right format for your data story: There are so many options to choose from. Here’s a helpful rundown to figure out which would be best to tell your story.
5) Design your data according to best practices: For a data visualization refresher, find out how to design the most common charts and graphs, and follow these 25 tips to improve your data design. (You can also try Visage, our easy data design platform.)
6) Send it out into the world: Download our e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution, to make sure your content reaches the most people.
For more data storytelling help, you can also check out our roundup of 100 tools, tricks, and resources. And do your best to stay up to date. (We’re always sharing our latest tips and insights, so feel free to bookmark us.) If you have more questions or need a little help, we’re always down to chat.