Make Sure to Use Data in Digital Storytelling


Data matters. But too much data overwhelms. As public relations and marketing specialists, we know that authentic storytelling resonates more than statistics and numbers. But combining both is almost always the best route to go to make your audience engage effectively with your brand.

The truth is we remember data easily when it’s part of a meaningful story. Use too many statistics and you’ll likely lose your audience. Remember statistics don’t move people. People move people. That said, if you have one telling statistic or one attention-grabbing number, use it to tell a larger story.

Have a boss reluctant to try TikTok? You could drone on about the trendy video platform, but don’t forget to add that TikTok has 689 million monthly active users worldwide.

Doing a PSA on seatbelt use? Pair a story with the fact that three out of four people ejected from a vehicle die from their injuries.

Cite the source for your statistic and make sure it’s a trusted one. That lends credibility to the message you’re trying to get across. We live in an age when your audience isn’t going to be shy to challenge a statistical finding, so make sure you know precisely what you’re talking about. Don’t embellish to make a point.

Be careful to use a current number and don’t mislead in any way. No matter how good a statistic sounds, be careful of using it in the correct context. Remember, correlation isn’t the same as causation, so make sure you don’t confuse the two.

The beauty of data is it’s objective. The beauty of stories is their emotional impact. The best data storytelling blends those two worlds without compromising either.

Many of us are visual learners, so illustrating a nugget of data with a graphic that is easy to follow is another way to drive home a message. Simple graphics work best and are good to share on social media platforms. Economists can’t get enough of fancy bar and pie charts. Most of us aren’t economists. You shouldn’t have to stare at a graphic a long time to decipher the message.

You’ve really created a nice package if you’ve got a timely, telling statistic supported by a compelling narrative combined with an eye-catching graphic. That trifecta of tools, a synthesis sorts, strengthens your message and when crafted carefully, leaves a memorable impression.

Ultimately, you’re trying to move your audience to action, whether it’s to wear a seatbelt, get a mammogram or buy the product you’re selling. With so much noise online, if you can create a package that engages your customer and validates that you are a trusted source, you’ve done your job.