Data Storytelling 101

Aug 17, 2022 Laura Garofalo

Do surveys still work? Many fall flat because of poor timing, boring insights, or the crowded news cycle. Reporters simply have less time to cover them. 

But surveys can be a powerful tool in your marketing comms toolkit (if you do them the right way). The data can: 

📊 Demonstrate or validate a market trend
🔥 Fuel your content engine (topics-wise) 
💡 Establish thought leadership & credibility
💬 Generate awareness (and leads)

What’s our formula for success? Think in headlines, ask interesting (and timely) questions, and don’t be self-serving. For your next data report, here’s what else you should consider: 

#1: Prioritize proprietary data

Companies should look inward and see how they can use their own data to tell a compelling story. For example, our #client Immersive Labs collected cyber knowledge, skills and judgment data from 2,100 organizations based on 500,000+ cyber exercises and simulations – in just 18 months – and created this Cyber Workforce Benchmark report. Pro tip: Consider pairing your company data with a third-party survey data company to build out a more complete storyline. This leads us to the next point…

#2: Choose your data partner wisely

Use a respected survey company with meaningful panels. In the age of fake news, this matters a lot. You can also partner with an industry association for a sponsored survey. These are more expensive but can give you credibility. 

#3: Be transparent about the methodology

Whether you use proprietary data or a third party to gather the insights, you need to be transparent about how you got them. Sample size, timeframe and demographics aren’t just nice-to-haves. You will lose all credibility if you can’t explain how your data was collected. All data reports should include a dedicated methodology section. 

#4: Care about the setup

For the brave who want to build real media relationships: share your raw data. Our friend Sam Whitmore says reporters love that stuff. Then the reporter can find the insights that matter most to them. And if that’s too scary, see if they’d like to ask a question on your survey. And make sure you’re using inclusive questions as qualifiers. We recommend using this list from Reimagine Gender

#5: Timing is everything

Surveys do still work, but they need to have a fresh angle and hit at the right moment (i.e. not the same time as your competitor’s report on a similar topic). For example, The Great Resignation hasn’t slowed down and our #client OpenView Venture Partners published a 2022 State of SaaS Talent Market report to help B2B executives understand hiring trends.

#6: Get visual

Make complex data simple (and shareable)! What’s the story behind the numbers? Make sure your audience can connect the dots. Consider adding graphic elements to the report to break up the text. Remember, simplicity is key. And think beyond the report – what visuals do you need for the website and other owned channels? Consider creating Gifs, videos, infographics, or micrographics, and building in enough time to create them in advance of the launch. For example, we worked with our #client NEXT Insurance to write and design The NEXT Small Business Guide nearly a year ago, and it’s still being used by their sales team.

#7: Tell a bigger story

Give the data a broader context. Why should people care? Why now? What trends emerge? Find ways to incorporate the findings into your rapid response strategy and develop bylined article topics that tie into trends from the report. This will help continue the momentum after the report is published. For example, our insurtech #client Corvus Insurance published its Risk Insights Index, which noted that there was a downward trend in the severity of ransomware claims paid. But what this meant is that the cybersecurity and insurance industries are trending in the right direction, and the report went into detail explaining why and how this was the case. 


“When done correctly, data reports provide something of great value to reporters—fresh numbers and facts that help illuminate a trend that’s happening in any given industry. They are more attractive news-wise, to the media, and help companies earn attention from the business press.”

— Lisa van der Pool, senior vice president, Inkhouse


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Topics: Public Relations, Audiences, rethINK PR, trendjacking, data insights, data storytelling, news cycle
Laura Garofalo

Laura is the vice president of marketing at Inkhouse.

Read more from Laura Garofalo

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