Google Says Digital Marketers Should Share the Stories Behind the Data

Digital marketers must remember to use the insightful data they have to better connect and share information with consumers, says Google.

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."