Data is nothing more than information. Without good analytics, insight, and narrative, data simply ends up being a list of things.
Information has no shape, no meaning, no importance without context. You may have four. But four what? And why does it matter?
Engaging and relevant information is critical in today’s data-saturated world. Let’s look at how to present data in a meaningful yet non-technical way. You’ll create stronger content, driving more growth and more revenue for your business!
Data is boring! Stories are fun!
Data is a tool to craft essential content — your story! It helps us calculate and visualize information that is hard to put into words or complicated to understand. But unless we organize data in a creative and meaningful way, too much information can distract and even dissuade readers from reading further. So you need to find the sweet spot between enough and too much information.
Every creator has a unique workflow, but we’ve put together a lifeline if you’re not used to working with data or just looking for an elegant way to think about the process.
Here’s a helpful way to start thinking about aspects of your content planning process where you can insert some helpful cues like, “Well, what does the data say?”
1. It’s all about the story
Finding a compelling story is about 50% of the creative process. But what makes a story “good?” What draws readers’ attention and focus?
That’s right. All the data, facts, and ideas in the world won’t matter if your voice and excitement get lost in the writing. Make sure you’re always writing with purpose and give your story a compelling narrative and momentum to engage your audience. Use active language, sensory words, and a solid hook to keep things interesting.
Data can help you find a captivating story. This is a great place to use Google Trends or industry research. It can also be helpful to research discussion boards and Q&As to get insight on topics and angles that real people are talking about.
2. The audience is listening. But who?
Knowing about your audience is as essential as learning about your topic. Who is your audience? What are their passions, their challenges? What does the audience know about the topic?
Keep your readers in mind as you put your story together – it should always tie back to their interests and benefits.
If your readers tend to be working moms with pre-teen children, a post about the best concert venues is not likely to get or keep their attention. Similarly, a top ten cupcake recipes post doesn’t have much to be gained on a Jeep forum. Keep your writing focused and exciting to the audience you have or the audience you’d like to attract.
3. Safety in numbers: seeking reputable sources
The key to compelling data storytelling is reliable data. Data includes graphs, pie charts, and maps. It includes reference images, infographics, video, and audio that support the flowing narrative.
With your topic and audience in mind, identify what data you have and what’s missing. But be careful. Incorrect and misleading information is pervasive. Make sure to vet your sources. Good journalism seeks multiple sources and verifies for good data.
4. Discovering your data story
Using data effectively while maintaining an engaging voice is a tricky balance. It’s best to substitute information that requires a lot of math or memory with visual media and graphical elements that keep people reading.
Ask yourself if your data and findings tie back to the original narrative, support the story, and engage your audience. If the information you gathered doesn’t serve the story, or worse, disengages the reader with too much logic and not enough emotion, cut it!
5. Craft your narrative
It’s time for the fun part! Lean into what you do best and spin that information into content!
Now that you know your topic and have all of your backing data, it’s time to craft this piece into a story. Use your data and research to give the story you’re writing depth. Focus on human communication with a splash of SEO to leverage any keyword research and goals.
Keep it interesting.
Good data visualization is about presenting clear and helpful information at a glance. You don’t need to include all the available data, just what helps get your point across in a meaningful way.
Having measurable metrics and goals is sometimes difficult. Depending on the level of interactivity of your site, you may be able to gather feedback directly from your audience. Or, you can use data points from analytics to look at views, performance, and time on page. The key is that your measurement method should be consistent and reliable.
Drawing conclusions about data
Data without context and analysis is meaningless. Factual and objective data, presented in an eye-catching and meaningful way, helps propel stories by providing clarity and focus.
Good data doesn’t restrict story or voice but augments it. Great content begins with a solid workflow that addresses finding good data and presenting it in a meaningful way!