3 Ways to Tell a Story With Your Data

Molly Soat
American Marketing Association
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Key Takeaways
What? Data are just numbers until you make them into a story.

So what? By creating a story around specific metrics, the take-aways become that much more memorable.

Now what? Evaluate your data with a human-to-human perspective to create a compelling brand story.

Data are just numbers until you make them into a story.

Data is all well and good, but until they get your point across, they’re just a bunch of numbers. According to Melanie Spring, chief inspiration officer of branding agency Sisarina presenting at the AMA’s Analytics With Purpose Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., storytelling is an integral part of data analysis for any company.

If you’re trying to find out not just what’s happening in your company but why, storytelling—whether it’s part of an internal presentation or outward-facing campaign—is the way to create personas, shape campaigns and make strategic decisions. 

Spring’s directive has three components: 

1. Every number has a name: Big Data is about process and strategy, Spring says, and analytics is the processing of that data. Data plus the story equals impact. Give all of your numbers a “name,” or an identity, and they’ll begin to make sense.

2. Every name has a story: “Storytelling is humans talking to humans about humans,” Spring says. What numbers line up with the stories you want to tell?

3. Every story needs to be rocked:Data helps tell stories, but it doesn’t inherently tell a story. Details like how you used your data to make a difference in your product offering are exactly what make a good story for your stakeholders and customers.

When you’re creating your story, map out a “story flow” first: 

1. What’s the point of your story?
Figure that out first then build your story around your main point.

2. How does the data help tell the story?
The story isn’t about data, the data helps the story.

3. Why should those listening care?
What is really important about the story, and what does it mean for them?

4. What’s the magic in the data?
What human thing does it actually talk about?

5. How does it affect the humans?
Will it elicit emotion, action or interest?

6. How will they remember the data?
What punchy information can you include in your story to make it memorable to your customers or stakeholders? 


Related Video: Melanie Spring -The 4 Tenets of Content Marketing

For more tips on how to rock your content, check out our coverage of Spring’s presentation at the AMA 2015 Annual Conference in Austin, Texas.

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Author Bio:

Molly Soat
Molly Soat is the editor of Marketing News. e-mail her at msoat@ama.org, and follow her on Twitter @MollySoat.
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