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What is the Business Value of a Data-Driven Story?

09/27/2019 by Jaime D’Agord Data Communication

Data storytelling has traditionally been associated with the marketing department and digital marketing campaigns. However, recently, it is a skill that most companies are looking for in data scientists and analysts.

Data analysts focus primarily on data analytics to help companies make better business decisions. This could range from a variety of responsibilities, from pricing goods and services for the consumer market to reducing operational costs. The declining attention span of the consumer market makes it exceptionally difficult for data and marketing analysts to engage consumers.

Let’s face it, the consumer market is saturated with brands and businesses that want (and need) consumer attention. Among this competition for attention, how does a business stand out and stay at the forefront of the consumer’s mind?

A few years ago, businesses were focused on information gathering. Now, that focus has shifted to finding the best solutions to extract value from data.

Whether you are developing a data-driven marketing campaign or presenting data findings, you want to engage your audience.

Let that sink in, you want to engage your audience.

You do this in two ways. One, share facts – big data and data visualizations. Two, draw them in through storytelling. By investing data analysts’ time and efforts in these two areas, companies can grow and have a better chance of converting customers.

Data storytelling begins with the data

Not really. It all begins with a question. Identifying and asking that question leads to finding answers to business problems. That’s where data comes in to play. Quality guru, W. Edwards Deming said, “without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

Opinions don’t matter when there are millions of dollars on the line.

If a data analyst made a presentation to company leadership and said the company is doing great with no evidence or key insights, they are simply sharing an opinion. Not only that, the way that data analyst gauged success could be very different than the way leadership measures success.

To add value to a presentation, present the facts! Data-driven content is interpreted as high-value content because it provides insights. And insights lead to action.

Need an example data story? Have a look at this one featuring the Ocearch sharks. I created my data story using only SAS Visual Analytics.

I wanted to explore the four steps to a powerful data story, which was discussed in our webinar with OCEARCH. I followed a simple storytelling arc; beginning, development and desire.

First, I introduced the main character and shared the conflict. I then provided compelling data and facts using charts and graphs to support my storyline (along with creating a little bit of mystery). Finally, I provided a visually appealing resolution.

Drive a Message with Your Story

The real value of a data story is in how we communicate our message and help our audience understand the data.

Data and reporting are not enough to present to a customer or decision-maker. They become overloaded with information. It essentially becomes meaningless and in turn, defeats the purpose of pulling data and generating reports. Stories are different.

Information presented as stories allows you to create an emotional connection with your audience.

This can lead them to do things they might normally oppose, like changing the way a company functions or in a customer scenario, spending money with your business.

If the audience connects emotionally with your story, they are connecting with your brand. And you are essentially building trust; that is key to generating business.

Make an Impact and Money With Data

Dr. Jennifer Aaker, a social psychologist, shared a study. Her students were asked to present a one-minute persuasive pitch to their classmates. Only one of the pitches included a story.

Minutes later, the researcher asked the students to pull out a sheet of paper and write down the ideas they remembered. Only five percent of the students remembered the statistics; sixty-three percent remembered the story. Think about that.

The story is what the listeners retained.

A data story, if done right, provides impactful information – which creates business value because it leads to better decisions.

When data is presented in a way that decision-makers can see the context to evaluate the impact, better decisions are made. Better decisions equal better business outcomes.

Similarly, a data story is key for your brand’s marketing message to resonate. A message that is contagious is repeated, and a message repeated makes an impact like Dr. Aaker’s study.

Ultimately, data allows you to prove your point, a narrative gives the data a voice, and visuals help enlighten. With that combination, you can gain attention and make an impact through data-driven storytelling.