How data can help you tell a story

“The numbers have no ways of speaking for themselves. We speak for them. We imbue them with meaning.” – Nate Silver

Using data can be a powerful way to tell a story….

How to: data storytelling


When thinking about how you describe your story you could use numbers to describe your age, where you grew up, how long you studied at university for or even how many pets you’ve had. If these numbers were written down as a sequence – 25, 7, 3 and 8 – they don’t mean anything.

But, when you marry them up with a narrative, an emotional human story comes through which is all underpinned by the rationale of data.

As creative storytellers and reputation management consultants using analytics alongside our storytelling will create a more impactful and influential campaign.

However, as storytellers the challenge is how you approach the data in order to gain the insight.

Ensuring you have the right and relevant data to underpin your story, look for the killer statistic which your story can be framed around.

Six Golden Rules when telling stories with data:

1. Keep it simple and smart

With any good story, you need to keep you audience intrigued and invite them in to ask questions. Use straightforward numbers and keep your language simple and concise.


2. Find and use relevant data

When approaching data, use Simon Sinek’s approach and start with the why – what do you want to find out and show to your audience?

A brilliant example of this is the British Heart Foundations CPR campaign. By finding out that 110- 120 bpm is the ideal pace for hands- only CPR and is the same beat as the Bee Gees song “Staying Alive”, they were able to create a simple, effective and memorable campaign.

3. Avoid false positives

Always question the data trends you have in front of you, as correlation is not the same as causation.

Tyler Vegan, a Harvard Law Student looks at things that happen and work together with correlations, which proves this point beautifully.

4. Avoid the curse of knowledge

Go back to the five why’s, and really question the overall purpose. Delve deeper into the data to try and find something new to help you connect with your audience in a new and exciting way.

For Easy Jet’s 20th anniversary, they looked deeper into its 20 years’ worth of flight data to discover the most popular destinations and activated a personalised email marketing campaign drawing on the nostalgia of past holidays. 12.5m emails went to customers, 100% of these emails were opened, leading to 14 times more bookings.


5. Know your audience

With any storytelling, understanding and empathising with your audience is key, analyse your data to be able to gain this insight so you can reach them on a more personal level.

This Girl Can found that; 85% of girls and women who don’t exercise say they don’t for fear of being judged, but 85% of women say they DO judge other women (in a positive way) they see exercising. So created a powerful empathetic campaign based on this insight – women feel motivated when they see other women working out, so therefore should feel empowered to do the same.


6. Talk Human

It shouldn’t matter whether you are running a B2C or a B2B campaign, the number one thing to remember is that everyone you are talking to is human, so your approach should be considered and empathetic whilst still ensuring you are targeting the right people, always look for opportunities within the data which will reach your audience on a human level.


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