Combining data and storytelling for great content

4 min read

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Laura Cooper

Unless you like dealing with reams of cold, hard data and can visualise it before you like a numbers whizz-kid, the answer’s probably stories. Stories are easier to hang your hat on and relate to and they allow points to be illustrated in an emotive way.

However much you might try to make them, numbers and statistics on their own aren’t very memorable, but they can help to make stories more robust and give them some factual grounding.

Compelling people to take action

Consider this – consumers make decisions based on feelings and emotions. So, if you can create stories in your content that make people feel something (*note: not hatred for you) then they’re more likely to engage with your brand and buy your products.

Adverts for charities are incredibly effective at showing off their storytelling skills and are a really good example of using emotionally persuasive techniques to encourage people to take action.

If a statistic about how many dogs are given up for rehoming every year is thrust in front of you, you’ll probably feel something about it…unless you’re dead inside. But imagine how much more powerful an advert would be if you actually see a dog being given up, moved to a shelter and then eventually rehomed. Seeing an adorable puppy’s little eyes light up as they meet their new owner for the first time (be right back – I’m off to the RSPCA).

It’s an emotive journey that allows people to see the real-life examples behind statistics.

Data helps stories to become more trustworthy

Okay, so apparently we’re living in a post-factual society…(FAKE NEWS!), but for the moment – when it comes from a reputable source, data has a big part to play in making your stories more authentic. A story about a dog being given up and re-homed is bloomin’ heart-warming, but if it’s combined with statistics then it can become even more compelling.

Storytelling can hook people in and create emotion and the data can provide people with logical reasoning for why they should get involved. You can show the life of a rescue dog and provide statistics to show how much your contribution to a charity can help their wellbeing.

RSPCA Ad for abused dogs

Consumers are usually afraid of making the wrong judgement. We go through life, balancing on a tightrope and hoping we’re not going to get ripped off. For some people – all they need is the story, but for another group of consumers they need the story and details that show them this is the real deal.

Statistics just don’t tap into the same parts of our brain that storytelling does. Data allows the parts of our brain that deal with numerical reasoning to make logical decisions. And stories can help to push that decision making in a certain direction.

Combining data and stories

So, the story gives us the emotion and the warm fuzzy feelings. Data provides us with the unemotional, objectives facts that build authenticity. Think back to school (ugh, I know) and when you wrote basic essays. You always had to reinforce your theories or arguments with supporting evidence. And the same can be said for creating content and writing persuasive copy.

It helps to aim your content at the second type of consumer we mentioned; the type of person that will listen to stories, but needs another level of authenticity to make a decision. And more often than not, data can provide that extra layer or trustworthiness.

Basically, instead of chucking a story away and creating something cold and statistical, you can use data to confirm everything that you’re illustrating with a story. You can relate to people on a logical and emotional basis.

Leading your content with a story can hook people in and gives them a ‘journey’ to follow – or as digital bods like to say ‘create the narrative’. You can then weave your data into your content in an engaging way. Plonking stats here and there might not make a big difference, but producing a data visualisation or giving a step-by-step analysis of key patterns in your data can help to highlight the best things about your data.

People want to make decisions with their heart (*theme tune to cheesy 80s movie*) but they also have a desire to check their instinct against some objective, fact-based data.

Let us know your thoughts below!

Consumers make decisions based on feelings and emotions. So, if you can create stories in your content that make people feel something (*note: not hatred for you) then they’re more likely to engage with your brand and buy your products.