Data is undoubtedly helping brands stand out in a crowded digital marketing space. From insight reports to company surveys, thought leadership is increasingly reliant on data to showcase the entire range of their capabilities.
However, simply presenting data is not enough – especially in large volumes. Data needs to be presented in a way that’s simple, clear, organised and tells a meaningful story, rather than just a bunch of numbers on the screen.
Here are 5 ways you can turn complex data into something useful, accessible and engaging:
Have a clear story
As this viral meme illustrates, there’s a number of steps and ways for data to be presented. Without context, data is just an unintelligible string of numbers and facts.
But what does “telling a story” mean? Whether it’s a nature documentary or a thriller novel, almost all stories are about conflict. Ask yourself how you can make this shine through via your data, and here’s a handy recap of a story structure you might have learned in school”
- Exposition – Introducing settings and characters
- Rising action – Building up conflict between two opposing forces
- Climax – The turning point where the opposing forces collide
- Falling action – The consequences of the climax
- Resolution – All conflict is resolved
For example, an exposition can be about what the current industry landscape looks like. From there, you can discuss what parties or forces oppose one another and why, according to the data. (Rising action) What could happen when these opposing forces clash? (Climax)
When it comes to a data-driven report, here’s how the above points would translate:
- Exposition – Information about the current landscape in a chosen industry, stakeholders, players, etc
- Rising action – Conflict between two (or three) parties
- Climax – What happens when the conflict reaches a fever pitch?
- Falling action – The consequences of the climax — what is the community and stakeholder impact?
- Resolution – Alternative suggestions to the issue, based on data
Remember to ask the question “So what?” via your story — why is this important to my audience and why should they care? Why does it matter if 9 in 10 lack access to something crucial, or if 5 in 10 people use their smartphone for a seemingly mundane task? People won’t bother reading if they can’t see why it’s relevant to them or the work they do.
Be clear and concise
The words you choose affect how your target audience receives your content. Unless you’re speaking to a specific audience (scientists, software engineer), keep your content as easy-to-read as possible so they’re easier to digest.
If simple words can work, avoid using complicated words — for instance, “use” instead of “leverage”, “but” instead of “however”, “now” instead of “at the current time”. Short sentences > long ones.
Depending on your audience, not everyone will be familiar with acronyms used in your region. If you’re writing for an international audience, either spell out the acronym first, or avoid using it. Instead of EMEA, CTR and COB, write out “Europe, the Middle East and Africa), CTR (Click-Through Rate) and COB (Close of Business),
Same goes for jargon – unless you’re speaking to a group of experts, avoid using terms that would be understood solely by those in the industry. If you need to feature them, explain what they mean or find an alternative term.
Use analogies to illustrate your point
An analogy is comparing the similarities between two things for the purpose of clarifying or explaining a point. These can be especially helpful for people who aren’t familiar with an industry or field. Help your audience understand an idea more clearly by introducing analogies in your writing or speech.
Clearly display key messages
When it comes to long-form content such as op-eds, reports, or webinars, find innovative ways of reiterating your key messages several times throughout the material. The same approach is often used in media interviews, when spokespeople repeat a message multiple times to drive a key point home.
If you’re working with a short social media post or digital ad, present your data in a way that helps your key points stand out.
Rely on visuals
Use visuals to make complex concepts easier to understand. Graphs, charts, pull-out statistics, infographics all help audiences visualise data and break the monotony of text.
Headings and subheadings are a great way to promote your message clearly. Ideally, headings should be short (between 7 to 15 words) and understandable even with zero context. Sharp headlines make key takeaways easier to remember.
Need help with putting together an engaging long-form data-driven report or white-paper? You’ve come to the right folks: [email protected]