At a time when it has never been more challenging to make sense of all the data that swirls around a brand, and simultaneously never been more possible to do so, marketers need to understand the fundamentals of data-driven storytelling.

Data-driven storytelling is an act of empathy, according to Sam Knowles, founder & MD of corporate and brand storytelling consultancy Insight Agents.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to tell stories using data and statistics, he observes that the way to build purposeful stories does not involve collecting and deploying numbers – amply demonstrated by the failure of the so-called ‘Project Fear’ approach taken by the Remain side in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK.

Browbeating the audience into submission not only doesn’t work – it’s actively counter-productive, he says; instead, peppering narratives with just a handful of well-chosen, killer statistics is the route to data-driven storytelling success.

“The most powerful and influential stories are those that appeal to both our emotions and our intellect,” he adds, going on to suggest that central equation underpinning success in the modern knowledge economy is:

Analytics + Storytelling = Influence

For marketers, the key is to keep it simple, yet smart. Too much information is more likely to bore the audience than keep it hooked – and that filtering and editing process is by no means straightforward; as Mark Twain is reputed to have said: “I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time.”

A good place to start is by finding and using only relevant data, not just what happens to be easily available: ask why you want data in the first place, then choose the right data for the task.

Knowles underlines the empathy aspect by stressing the need to use research, data, and statistics to show an understanding of the audience one is seeking to influence; the flip side of that is to “beware the curse of knowledge” and end up talking down to them.

And, of course, avoid corporate-speak and simply “talk human”.

Sourced from WARC