Five ways data storytelling can drive business


You’re browsing through the morning news, cup of coffee in hand, when a headline catches your eye, “Crime rises across the country.” Immediately engaged, you read on to find out more. Your brain is intuitively seeking out the five W’s - who, what, when, where and why?

What you’ve just read is an example of data storytelling, one of the fastest growing roles in business intelligence. The data storyteller acts as an essential conduit between data scientists and the people you want to communicate with.  Part analyst and part storyteller; they’re key to unlocking big data.

So, what does a data storyteller do? And is it worth the investment?

Here’s five ways they’ll make a big impact:

  • Storytelling takes your data from passive to active:
    Whilst many businesses are doing a great job of gathering data, few know how to use it. That’s because it has very little meaning to most of us. Receiving and digesting data is complex, and our brains simply aren’t wired that way. 

    Take for instance, a teacher explaining a mathematical problem to a struggling student. Using a real story or example rather than algebraic formulae is much more likely to be effective. Likewise, a data storyteller can explain your data insights by crafting a real story, creating valuable opportunities for meaningful engagement.
  • Stories are sticky, data is not: 
    When is the last time you entertained dinner guests with spreadsheets and tables? Humans swap stories not data. We don’t retain data well, but stories stick. A study carried out by a Stanford professor is case in point. The professor asked students to give a one-minute speech on crime statistics in the US. Each story contained an average of 2.5 statistics. 

    Students were distracted with a video for ten minutes after the exercise then asked to write down what they could remember about the speeches. A staggering 63% could recall the stories in the speeches whilst only 5% could remember an individual statistic. So, if you want to better engage with your customers, use a data storyteller to ensure that you’re turning out sticky stories that are memorable.
  • Enable all business units to use your data:
    A data storyteller can turn data into stories for different internal audiences. For example, a marketing manager may request information on the online browsing behaviour of existing customers within a specific demographic. A data storyteller can fulfil the request by delivering a story to the manager with interesting insights that lead to better decisions.
  • Generate more leads:
    Providing swathes of data to potential customers is unlikely to be persuasive. Telling a story with your data, that evokes an emotional response or connection, is where the value lies. 

    Charities do this well; they’ll often send out stories about a rescued animal or a family caught up in the aftermath of a natural disaster. When we read those stories, we feel and connect. As a result, we’re much more likely to donate. The same applies to the corporate world -  if you want to increase your bottom line, then you must connect with your audience in a meaningful way.
  • Raise your public profile:
    A data storyteller can also raise your public profile with interesting and topical stories extracted from your data. Given that many of the most sought-after data storytellers have journalism backgrounds, they’ll often take on a public relations role as well. Feeding the media with exclusive data stories will further strengthen your brand and reputation. 

Onboarding data storytellers into data and information teams, a space previously reserved for ‘techies’ only, is an acknowledgement that most data scientists aren’t storytellers. It’s also tipped to be one of the top growth areas in data driven business as the amount of big data we gather continues to grow.

If you don’t have the resources to install a data storytelling team, look for the natural storytellers internally. Those with a liberal arts background are a good place to start – but they must have an eye for data.

Alternatively, invest in the services of a data storyteller on a project by project basis to avoid useful information becoming useless data.

How can data storytelling help grow your business?

We can help. Talk to an Equifax Data-driven Marketing expert to find out how.

Tags: DataBusiness