Stats, facts, and figures—we all love data, and it certainly helps make content all the more powerful. Data, when used properly, makes an argument more compelling, underscores a position, and adds relevancy and authenticity to a story.
Yet we’ve all seen infographics, slides, and blog posts so cluttered with a hodgepodge of complex charts and figures, they actually depreciate the effectiveness of the content and the message. How do you balance data, design, and messaging to tell a stronger story?
Think Like a Journalist
Journalists live by the long held “Five W's and One H” rule. That is, every good story answers the who, what, when, where, why, and how. The “who” are the characters in the story. The “what” are the events or actions, or in this case, the data and facts. You must be able to draw connection between the characters and the data you are presenting. “When” reveals the time frame, and “where” identifies the place. “Why” is the cause for the events or findings, and finally, “how” is the way in which something happened.
These all make your data relevant and concrete. Whether you’re selling an idea to your target audience or informing your team about a new initiative, don’t compromise the art of storytelling just to showcase data.
To successfully uncover the five Ws and one H, you have to mine the data. Often, the deeper you dig into your findings, the more likely you’ll discover an amazing story, or maybe even two. Enlist your team to assist in this process. Doing so will bring more, varied perspectives to the table and reduce the likelihood of missing a key point.
Content with data sometimes fails because the findings or facts are placed before the story. When looking over the data, the key is to identify that bigger story.
Make It Personal
Every good story has an element of emotion. It’s what connects the reader to story. Once you’ve identified the emotional hook, think about how it can be further supported by data. Maybe the facts reveal a major challenge the character in the story needs to overcome.
Tell Your Story Through Visuals
Some imagery can communicate a message instantly and make it memorable, while others require the viewer to do too much work, dissecting the information and deciphering their own conclusion. Images should reduce the complexity of bulky data.
Carefully select data points and design elements to relay the story at a glance. For instance, we recently released our Product Management and Marketing Survey Results and opted for a superhero theme to communicate our main findings and our message: that product managers and marketers are having to juggle more than ever in bringing their products to market.