How to turn Data into Stories
“Dates are cold and unemotional by their very nature.” With this sentence Isabelle Ewald started last Wednesday’s workshop on “Data-driven PR – How data becomes stories”.
So how does that fit together? Cold data and compelling PR stories? Very well indeed! Isabelle immediately sent us back to the 1990s. Who of us 90’s kids didn’t dream of getting into the magic bullet with Marajke Amado (see fig.1).
Data PR is the magic bullet of communication.
According to Isabelle, the magic bullet is a great metaphor for data PR. Apparently boring, perfectly normal children hold an interview with the presenter: “What are your hobbies? – Reading and playing soccer.” Sounds like the average kid at first glance, so not very exciting. But then they get into the magic bullet and come out – TADAA – totally transformed, dressed up (okay, from today’s point of view a bit questionable…) and somehow more exciting. According to Isabelle, that’s exactly how it works with data-driven PR.
Every company has data. And even if this data is sensitive and should not be published, you can still access huge data pools of third party providers like open data portals, market research companies or foundations. Or you can simply collect the data yourself using your own surveys. Here, one should only consider that it is often only a ” brief sentiment picture” and the survey is not representative.
Data PR thus describes the systematic use of data in communication work in order to convey (usually complex topics) in a targeted manner, to explain them better and to create a context. Data can either be the tool used to tell a story, the source on which a story is based or both. There are many ways to visualize the story.
As an example, Isabelle presented the OTTO Group’s “Cotton Made in Africa” (CmiA) initiative (see Fig.2). This is a very good illustration of what can also be done with a small amount of data. Actually, there were only two figures in the beginning:
- Quantity of “CmiA” cotton used by the OTTO Group –> 16,000 t
- Resulting amount of water saved compared to the production of conventional cotton –> 33 billion litres
That sounds like a huge amount to be said at first. But how much is that anyway? So we need a good comparison to illustrate to everyone what an enormous amount of water has been saved here. The per capita water consumption of a person living in Germany was used as a comparison. That corresponds to 750,000 people. And now we simply looked at the number of inhabitants with which this figure can be compared on the basis of major German cities. And suddenly the cold figures and enormous dimensions become clear, obvious and comprehensible for everyone.
This data PR example also pays off in an essential part of good public relations: proximity. Besides topicality and importance, proximity is a key news value. Everyone is interested in what is happening on their own doorstep. This is why, for example, the annual dispute atlas of advoCard, the burglary radar of the Hanover police department or the salary check of the BILD newspaper work so well.
Example of OTTO’s data PR, Day of the Jogging Pants
Workshop speaker Isabelle Ewald from the OTTO Group
The workshop participants in exchange
Three thrust directions of data PR
From Data Set to Data Treasure
The attentive reader could of course ask himself the questions now: What is this all about? The sweatpants atlas? These are just entertaining stories without any added value?
Entertaining: Yes. Without any added value: No (see below). Data-driven PR stories are predestined for online content. It’s about little stories or snippets that make you smile and then you forget about them 10 minutes later. But that’s okay. If you take a look at the flood of information on the Internet and especially in social media, it quickly becomes clear: It’s not about the big story! It’s about the many little stories that move us, that perhaps have a direct connection to us or our lives.
Of course you can also evaluate large-scale market research and generate data PR from it, but good data PR does not necessarily have to be associated with high costs. Rather, good data-driven public relations is a highly collaborative topic. You have to build a network. Often you have a particular question, but you can’t answer it with your own resources and powers. Therefore, you should think in advance about what data I need to answer my question and then ask in the appropriate department (e.g. Business Intelligence) or pull the corresponding data set from the network. Without cooperation, nothing works and good data PR depends on many competences.
What added value does data PR have?
Data create transparency and make complex topics “touchable” and comprehensible.
(Own) data are available and cannot be found in this form anywhere else. They are exclusive.
Data-based PR stories are predestined for online content and have a high degree of “shareability”.
Data-based PR stories sharpen the “digital image” of companies and organizations, stand for long-term vision.
Data PR is largely language-independent. In a very short time you get a rough estimate of what it is all about (e.g. seat allocation in the Bundestag).
(Data)Pearl Diving Made Easy
In order to present data as clearly as possible, there are different formats that work very well. Listicals (“10 tips for…”), for example, are currently in great demand. But watch out for too much click-baiting according to the scheme “No. 8 will blow your mind! A barometer, such as a mood barometer, for example, is well suited for a database that is based on a monthly period. Infographics had a big hype a few years ago and typologies are almost psychological. With an index you can illustrate very nicely where a trend is going and an atlas is a nice visualization, especially as a heatmap.
Formats that work:
Preparation of regionalisable data on emotionally gripping topics; presentation as a map.
Indicator based on certain characteristic values, which shows trends and developments.
Classification of people into groups based on certain social parameters.
Efficient communication of facts with a focus on clarity, accuracy and vividness.
Listed article containing essential facts on a specific topic.
Statistical measuring instrument for recording current sentiments.
And do I need a graphic designer for this?
The good news is: No! There are tools, tools, tools. Here are a few tips for visualizing your data:
Soon there will be a note about our new Picalike Podcast episode here! So stay tuned!