As a growth marketer, you constantly analyze data to uncover valuable insights about what’s working and what’s not — and make adjustments accordingly.
But the ability to create a compelling narrative with that data so others understand your insights and are convinced they’re valuable? That’s essential to persuade internal stakeholders as well as prospects — and it’s called data storytelling.
What Is Data Storytelling?
Data storytelling is presenting data along with a narrative that illustrates valuable insights in an effort to influence an audience to make a particular decision.
The goal is to connect the dots for decision-makers who don’t have data analysis skills (or time to analyze a bunch of data). For example, if you’re looking for additional budget to spend on PPC ads, data storytelling will help you explain why you should get it and convince leaders it’s the right move for your company.
Data storytelling can also be used externally to influence prospects or users. For example, you could create a report with data and insights that illustrate a particular challenge or trend within your industry and how your product can help.
3 Elements of Data Storytelling
Data — and the insights you gain from it — are the foundation of your story. Use data to shape your narrative and provide context as needed. It’s important to highlight multiple data points throughout your story so there’s significant evidence to support your theory and recommendations without going overboard and including too much extraneous information.
Like any story, you need a beginning, middle, and end — as well as setting, characters, conflict, and resolution. The setting is where your story takes place, and the characters are the people and teams involved. The conflict is a challenge or issue affecting the setting or characters, and the resolution is your proposed solution to the conflict. Not every story will have a conflict per se, but you should always include a final recommendation (or CTA) to end your story.
Charts, graphs, and diagrams help bring your data and narrative to life, illustrating the insights you’ve uncovered. Just like selecting which data points to include in your story, you should be selective about the visualization you include so you don’t overwhelm (or mislead) your audience.
Data Storytelling Examples
Spotify shapes product data into a story for each user based on what they listen to throughout the year. Wrapped is a personalized, interactive experience that’s fun and interesting — and users love sharing it on social media — creating brand affinity as well as viral exposure.
BetterUp Insights Report
BetterUp, an employee coaching platform, conducted research on diversity and inclusion in the workplace and then turned the insights into a beautiful web experience and report.
The narrative explains how employee expectations have changed post-pandemic — with data and helpful visualizations to support key points — and suggests specific solutions.
The report not only positions BetterUp as a trusted expert and helpful resource on workplace trends, but it also provides convincing evidence for why a company would need the BetterUp platform to train employees on the solutions suggested in the report.
Growth marketers also use data storytelling internally to help stakeholders understand performance and influence strategic decisions — especially when it comes to trying a new channel, optimizing an existing initiative, or vying for additional budget.
Below is an example of a dashboard that highlights important data points and includes visualizations to answer key questions. What’s missing is the narrative. Unfortunately, it’s tough to find an example of a full internal presentation that a company is willing to share!
Whether you’re using data storytelling internally with company leadership or externally with potential customers, it’s an important skill to develop as a growth marketer — and we’re here to help you along the way. Learn how we can help you collect, visualize, and understand your data.