Google Says Digital Marketers Should Share the Stories Behind the Data

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-03-26

Google Says Digital Marketers Should Share the Stories Behind the Data

With all the critical and valuable data that businesses generate today, they'd do themselves huge favors if they took advantage of all that information to better connect with consumers by sharing the fascinating stories behind the data.

That's the conclusion of a March 26 post by Daniel Waisberg, an analytics advocate from the Google Analytics team, on the Google Analytics Blog.

"Most organizations recognize that being a successful, data-driven company requires skilled developers and analysts," wrote Waisberg. "Fewer grasp how to use data to tell a meaningful story that resonates both intellectually and emotionally with an audience. Marketers are responsible for this story; as such, they're often the bridge between the data and those who need to learn something from it, or make decisions based on its analysis."

For businesses, the value of such data-driven stories is almost limitless, he wrote. And since they already have the data, these are resources that enterprises are not adequately using, according to Waisberg. "As marketers, we can tailor the story to the audience and effectively use data visualization to complement our narrative. We know that data is powerful. But with a good story, it's unforgettable."

So what does it all really mean? "Companies must understand that data will be remembered only if presented in the right way," wrote Waisberg. "And often a slide, spreadsheet or graph is not the right way; a story is."

Waisberg's argument is intriguing, especially in contrast to what business leaders do with their data today. Typically, business leaders are motivated to action by using "dashboards brimming with analytics," wrote Waisberg. "They struggle with data-driven decision-making because they don't know the story behind the data."

But instead, if they focus on their data and its meanings rather than just on the analytics about the information, they could better connect with consumers who are their customers and prospective customers, he wrote.

In his post, Waisberg cites several examples from marketing experts, including Stanford University marketing professor Jennifer L. Aaker, who said that people respond differently to messages that are delivered using statistics, compared with messages communicated through storytelling. One is not better than the other, but the future of good storytelling incorporates both, she said. "When data and stories are used together, they resonate with audiences on both an intellectual and emotional level."

That's where companies and businesses need to be smarter in using their data to help communicate the information that they want to share with consumers, wrote Waisberg. "Most captivating storytellers grasp the importance of understanding the audience. They might tell the same story to a child and adult, but the intonation and delivery will be different. In the same way, a data-based story should be adjusted based on the listener. For example, when speaking to an executive, statistics are likely key to the conversation, but a business intelligence manager would likely find methods and techniques just as important to the story."

The key to making that happen, he wrote, is that business leaders must remember that "finding the story is significantly harder than crunching numbers."

Google Says Digital Marketers Should Share the Stories Behind the Data

Thinking more about these connections and relationships between data and direct corporate messaging to consumers and customers is key for business leaders who want to improve their communications with the public to benefit their business, wrote Waisberg. "Marketers are responsible for messaging; as such, they're often the bridge between the data and those who need to learn something from it, or make decisions based on its analysis. By rethinking the way we use data and understanding our audience, we can create meaningful stories that influence and engage the audience on both an emotional and logical level."

Google often provides information and help for digital marketers.

Earlier this month, Google offered a free, self-paced online Google Analytics Platform Principles course to help digital marketers gain new insights and lessons about the platform. Participants learned about the four components of the analytics platform, including data collection, processing, configuration and reporting, as well as about how analytics collects the data you need across different devices. They also learned key concepts for customizing analytics data in useful ways.

In June 2013, Google bolstered its DoubleClick digital advertising and marketing platform with some key upgrades, including a new ad campaign manager and social media integration with Wildfire. The new features were aimed at helping online advertisers use digital media more effectively and successfully, according to Google. The first part of the improvements was the replacement of the former DoubleClick for Advertisers interface with a new DoubleClick Campaign Manager, which Google called the biggest upgrade to the platform's core ad server in the 15 years since it was begun. The new social media features have been added to the DoubleClick platform through integration that's being built using Wildfire's social media platform, which Google acquired in 2012.

In September 2013, Google launched a new DoubleClick for Advertisers (DFA) Academy to provide more advice and self-paced training for its DoubleClick advertising service customers to reap even better results from their online ads in Google Search and elsewhere. The online academy provides help for general questions as well as more detailed, specific inquiries. The online DFA Academy is a self-paced learning path designed to guide users through core help articles and online training courses. It is designed around "checklists" that participants can use to mark their progress and new competencies before moving on to the next lessons and skills.

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