Telling Stories with Data — 4 Tips

One thing you’ll probably notice from our website is we talk about data a lot. We don’t subscribe to the often-repeated quote that, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” In fact, we think that phrase is full of, well, lies.  

Instead, it’s powerful way to show trends, uncover insights and prove your company’s assertions.

Consider all the Diversity Reports companies such as Google and Twitter have issued in the last few years. Together, they’ve spurred a much needed conversation about diversity in the technology industry (or more accurately, lack thereof). Without that data, we’d simply be pontificating about whether or not there is diversity instead of discussing the undisputed hard facts our industry faces.

Since our inception, Bateman Group has prided itself on using data in our storytelling process — whether it’s being smart about how to integrate it into a pitch or making it the story itself.

Media appetite for data is evolving though, and reporters are growing increasingly skeptical about vendor surveys. Here are a few tips we’ve learned about using data in a way that the media will actually care about:

1. Consider the size of your pool: Want to do a survey of American consumers with just 200 people? That’s about as significantly significant as the number of yellow t-shirts in Mark Zuckerberg’s closet. Without a respectable pool of respondents, your survey won’t hold water. If you can’t stand behind it, how can you expect media to?

2. Developing your own report/survey? Resist making it too self serving: If you’re investing in data to underscore trends that matter to your business, there’s a fine line between mapping it back to those trends vs. manipulating the data in your favor. Not only will this likely make the data less interesting, but press will see right through it. The best data reports maintain a balance.

3. Use unique insights only your company can provide: This is the big data era after all. Are there any unique stats you can pull from your company’s technology that will be interesting to a wider audience? I love StreetEasy’s blog, which showcases educational insights about New York City real estate from the company’s platform — from what buzzwords to use in an apartment description to the best neighborhoods for independent women. Our client CB Insights also does an amazing job publicizing the power of its platform with data commentary on the technology industry that’s as thought provoking as it is entertaining. (If you’re not subscribed to their newsletter, you’re really missing out.)

4. Tell an actual story: A data point without context and framing is just that — a data point. When using data in communications, always ask yourself why it matters and why it’s relevant right now. Don’t have good answers to these questions? It’s time to rethink why you’re using a statistic in the first place.

Want to learn more on working with data? Here are a few resources to consider: