The Power of Data-Driven Storytelling

Data-driven storytelling is becoming crucial for brands that want to stay relevant in the digital age. The Tour de France is a great example of how effective storytelling can be – and they’ve been doing it since the 1900s.

Back then, the Tour de France was created with the primary intention of selling more copies of the newspaper L'Auto, the ancestor of the current daily, L'Équipe. The simple strategy of reporting on the previous day’s race events – by telling stories – saw circulation skyrocket from 25,000 copies before the race to half a million copies every day in 1923.

Fast forward to today and the Tour de France is still a prime example of how engaging storytelling can attract audiences and drive conversations. What’s different from 1923? Those stories are now powered by real-time data, resulting in viral, shareable and conversation-starting content, delivered at exactly the right moment.Cycling race

Race organisers are using data to predict real-time race events, profile riders and make viewers feel like they’re standing on the curb.

Data and the art of storytelling

The ability to access and analyse data is a skillset that no PR and communications firm can do without. This became clearer to me recently when I met with two trendy young mathematicians and statisticians – broadly grouped as ‘data scientists’ today – to chat about how the clever use of data and making information more accessible through insights allows for proper engagement with consumers.

We were an unlikely pairing – me, representing my communication firm and them, sporting the right amount of carefully groomed facial hair, chic spectacles and super cool ‘kicks’. But the more we spoke, the more I realised how aligned we were, and it became obvious that the art of storytelling – powered by data – is where brand love begins and ends.

So what does this mean for brands and how can they find the sweet spot? It all comes down to the creation of deliberate threads of content that engage consumers in their daily motion. Brands must move away from static messages and create, co-create and amplify – in real-time – living Stories in Motion.

These are stories that resonate with and elicit genuine personal connections between brands and consumers. A critical part of this is being able to properly profile the audience a brand is aiming to reach. This goes beyond the demographic data of old and dives into online behaviour: from how, when and what type of content is being consumed, to the platforms being used, levels of engagement and online purchasing patterns.

Take the infamous ‘millennial’ category, for example. While this refers to a massively broad audience and would traditionally be quite tricky to reach, the upside here is that this audience segment loves to share information about themselves, providing a plethora of data on them and therefore paving the way for meaningful brand connections.

The ever-evolving brand

We talk about brands perpetually being in motion: be they regressing, spinning on an axis or moving forward.

‘Motion’ is the relationship between the forces a brand exerts (what it does and says about itself) versus the forces being exerted upon it – be they environmental, technological, consumer views, political or regulatory forces.

The notion of brand positioning is dead; it suggests a static end goal. But, today, brands and their stories are moving with far greater velocity than ever before, by virtue of the multiple devices, platforms and channels in existence.

WE recently introduced Brands in Motion, a diagnostic tool that helps brands understand what forces are impacting them. By leveraging data efficiently and creating authentic connections with consumers, we are seeing growth in both audiences and brand loyalty.

Brands in Motion WE Communications

Businesses are increasingly taking advantage of data analytics, be it for improved decision-making, seeking new revenue streams, better serving their customers, etc. But the impact on brand love comes in when they leverage this information in their content strategies and storytelling. After all, the best way to deliver complex data is through storytelling. Data is meaningless unless it is presented in the context of a story, which has the ability to capture our attention, and help us process and retain knowledge.

Brands that mine their data to tell meaningful, emotional stories that resonate with the right audiences, at the right time, are bound to propel themselves forward.

Those that are not using their data are probably spinning in place or even moving backwards. Studies show that companies that have a data-driven approach to their content strategy perform better financially and operationally, through smarter decision-making, better conversion rates and faster revenue growth.

Ultimately, without data, a brand is missing an opportunity to ensure relevance and could even be putting itself at risk when it comes to pushing out timely, relevant content.