A few weeks ago, my Communiqué colleague AnnMarie wrote an excellent blog post about leveraging data in storytelling. The post was inspired by the New York Times and the work its journalists are doing tracking and analyzing the data related to COVID-19, and it contains some terrific reminders for PR professionals as well.
Following up on this topic, I came across another Times article about using data in storytelling that I found to be helpful. Appearing in the Tech We’re Using section, it’s titled, “In Data Journalism, Tech Matters Less Than the People.”
I found this article to be helpful and a great companion to AnnMarie’s piece for its reminders about the importance of combining the stories of people – as individuals – with the data or its insights.
Ben Casselman, an economics reporter for the Times, explains the data might provide you with insight about trends, but talking with an individual will be of more help. He cited an example from 2018 when he was working on a story about investors purchasing single-family homes and was using data from millions and millions of real estate transactions. The data was evidence of the trend, but the story behind the trend was better illustrated by focusing on one home and talking with people, in this case, the investor who fixed it up, the family who eventually bought it, and others who unsuccessfully bid on it.
Given this insight, I think the primary lesson for marketers and communicators is as follows:
If you consider the above example of investors snapping up single-family homes, it’s easy to imagine what that arc might look like:
The next time you’re looking to leverage data in telling your client’s story, think like the New York Times data journalists and remember, as Ben Casselman says, “At the end of the day, data isn’t the story; people are the story.”
For more on Ben Casselman and the technology he uses, check out: In Data Journalism, Tech Matters Less Than the PeopleTags: Data, statistics, Story Arc, Storytelling, Trends, visual storytelling, writing