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Using data to tell better stories can mean the difference between approved projects and unhappy clients with confused, yet still angry, faces. Here’s how to get it right the first time.
Image via Flickr via Tais
Crafting impactful statements through content, including those monthly client reports, demands hard numbers to back up your analysis. Without data, you’re running the risk of churning out blocks of text that readers won’t absorb, meaning they’ll miss your key points. Data improves reader engagement, says the International News Media Association, gives your content distinctiveness, distills complex ideas into simpler mediums, and gives your content a more modern look. If you want executives and other decision makers to back your strategies, you need to build your narrative with clean data as its backbone.
Data rich content, whether it’s an infographic, a blog article, or a white paper, takes your raw metrics and turns them into digestible stories that readers can more easily understand. When readers comprehend your ideas, it’s a simpler task to persuade them that your path is the right one to take. Meanwhile, the numbers lend support for your tactics, showing that the effort you propose has merit based on hard facts. Stakeholders can tell you’re not just throwing creative notions against the wall and seeing what sticks. You’re crafting a measured plan based on previous results and targeted trends.
The Impact is Twofold: You get opt-in from key stakeholders. You get people wanting to share your content.
Hunting for data doesn’t need to be a long run down a blind alley yielding little results and wasted hours. You have all the information you need to augment content already; you just need to leverage the right sources. Here’s where you can go now to get client-centric data to help enrich your content and liven-up your proposals:
As you analyze the data for trends, make sure you present your findings in the most concrete manner possible. Call out your metrics using numerals, so you don’t hide the good numbers in a sea of words that readers all-too-often miss. Avoid going for the biggest number available in your data, especially if it does nothing to strengthen your case or add layers to the story you’re trying to tell. You want data to support your story and lend credibility, which isn’t possible if you’re introducing numbers that seem dubious. For example, if you’re going to tell people that you believe doing X tactic can lead to a 75 percent increase in conversions, you’d better have concrete data to bolster that claim.
Showing a 100 percent increase in organic traffic isn’t all that much if you’re talking about going from 6 visitors per month to 12 visitors. Put your data in its right context, so readers understand the significance of the numbers and why you believe them to be important. Show your data within the context of a larger time period, six months to one year, so that viewers can see the broader impact. Digital media is an exceptionally powerful means to communicate complex information, but that doesn’t mean you should fudge the figures to make your content seem more potent than is actually possible.
Visualizing data is all about choosing the right format and medium. Infographics are great at boosting engagement, upwards of 94 percent according to industry studies, but they’re terrible when it comes to trend analysis. To show trends, you want a simple line graph coupled with hard numbers and clear color distinctions between data groupings.
Don’t go for amorphous visuals like pie charts and Venn diagrams when you need to show linear progression over time. Remember that viewers need to see your data as a visual and get everything they need from it in seconds. If you need to do more than one minute of explaining the chart, you’ve strayed off the path and need to rework the medium.
Keep in mind that you don’t need data visuals to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to making an impact on viewers; you’ve got surrounding text to help. A simple graphic that viewers can understand is much more impactful than a complex interactive that does more to befuddle than explain.
In crafting your strategies and integrating metrics into your content, you should go where the data leads in forming conclusions. If the data presents a story that shows why a particular tactic won’t see success, build the narrative to show that result. Bending the info to support a predetermined narrative is a reflection of internal bias, and you need to drop it from the equation before you can proceed.
Leveraging data for content is an iterative process that demands constant digging and refinement. The better you get at analysis, the more captivating your stories will be for your clients and readers.