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What is Data Storytelling and What makes a Good Data Story 2021?

What is Data Storytelling and What makes a Good Data Story  2021?

What is Data Storytelling and What makes a Good Data Story ?

Everybody loves a good story. Be it cave paintings, oral folklore, epics, novels or movies – stories have always been intrinsic to human experience. In conveying novel ideas and inspiring people to take action, narratives have always been used to educate and engage the mind. Studies show that effective storytelling connects to parts of the brain that impact emotion, thereby making intended messages more memorable.

In today’s digital age, storytelling retains its value. With data gradually becoming the pulse of modern-day businesses, there’s a surge of solutions in the form of BI tools, dashboards and spreadsheets. However, enterprises still fail to avail of the opportunities hidden in their data.

So, how can businesses transform their data into a reserve overflowing with possibilities? The answer is simple: adopt effective Data Storytelling practices.

What is Data Storytelling?
The elements of Data Storytelling

What is Data Storytelling?

Data Storytelling is the means by which information is presented in the form of a fascinating narrative. It combines three necessary areas:

Data Insights

Knowledge derived from statistics and figures providing measurable metrics on a company’s overall business performance is the cornerstone of Data Storytelling.

Narrativization

Stringing the value of the insights into a piece that captures the end user’s attention gives the Data Story a unique dimension. Using language that strikes the perfect balance between factual reporting and captivating storytelling is the trick to successful narrativization.

Visualisation

It is essential to remember that images are as important as written text. Statistics show that posts with images receive more engagement and higher readership. Vibrant graphics accompanying texts add a pop of colour that makes the story even more appealing.  

Simply put, Data Storytelling is a means in which insights can be effectively demystified to the end user in a manner that they not only understand but also relate to on a personal level. Given that businesses deal with people, it is essential that data is given a shape that entices human senses. Here are a few things to keep in mind while crafting a Data Story:

  • Know your audience: It is vital that your story is customized to suit the taste of a specific audience. A good practice would be to get someone with minimal technical knowledge from outside the organisation to review your story before it goes live.
  • Find the right mix: It is a symphony of effective narrativization, lively graphics and appropriate statistics that contributes to successful Data Storytelling. Hence, it is essential to ensure that these elements flow into each other harmoniously to form a tantalizing Data Story.
  • Collaborate: For a Data Story to resonate well with the audience, it is essential that inputs are garnered from the right sources. Therefore, interdepartmental collaborations are key. While analytic minds may not be the best storytellers, they can feed the right insights to support the narratives fashioned carefully by marketers and designers.
We discussed how businesses should embrace Data Storytelling as a regular practice. The necessary aspects of a Data Story may be appropriate insights, narration and visuals. However, to create a story that uses data to strike a chord with the intended audience goes beyond just its anatomy.

Data Storytelling is a complex craft, whereby the narrative and visuals should be able to complement the insights effectively without undermining its emotive appeal. It is key to understand the difference between telling and showing your audience the importance of data. Here are some pointers on how a compelling Data Story can be fashioned:

1. Humanize your Insights

It is essential to always keep in mind that the end users of your story are people. Though data insights are central to Data Storytelling, the story itself shouldn’t be about numbers. Studies have proven time and again that emotions impact one’s logical decisions. Hence, having a strong narrative that is dotted with data at appropriate points is far more impactful than a data-dense story with little personal affect.

It is vital for your Data Story to resonate with your audience on multiple levels.

2. Address Real World Issues

The advantage of using data in a narrative is that it gives you an opportunity to substantiate it with tangible proof. Hence, by presenting a narrative that speaks about a real issue that is relevant to your audience and supporting that with empirical evidence, you’d be broaching a subject that is likely to pique their interest.

3. Offer Solutions to Problems

People are drawn to content that adds value to their lives. Having a story with an impactful narrative that focuses on problems alone may not elicit the necessary response. However, backing that up with further insights that provide solutions to the said issues goes a long way in presenting your audience with material that they’d find both engaging and worthwhile.

Instil a Sense of Community

People have the inherent need to feel connected to a larger community. Managing to achieve that through your Data Story with appropriate statistics alluding to groups like the target audience is a wonderful way to attract readers and have the necessary impact. This would also encourage readers to share the story within their peer groups, thereby increasing the chances of your audience expanding.

4. Verify your Data

While all the aforementioned points are essential to keep in mind while crafting your Data Story, it is also equally important to remember that factual accuracy shouldn’t take a back seat when personalising the narrative. Verifying your data and ensuring that it is relevant to the narrative is vital. Accurate data goes a long way in establishing your credibility in your field and is therefore integral to Data Storytelling.

Through the aforementioned points, it is evident that Data Storytelling is crucial to success in any business. If you would like any further tips or advice on this topic, feel free to reach out to us or drop me an email at david.fitzpatrick@clearstrategy.ie.

What is Data Storytelling and What makes a Good Data Story  2021?
David Fitzpatrick
Director
David, the founder of Clear Strategy, is a leading business and technology professional with over 20 years' experience in Data and Analytics.
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