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How to use Data Storytelling to communicate more effectively

This is part 1 of a 5 part series on Data Storytelling.

One of the most important aspects of working with data, but least appreciated, is how you communicate what the data tells you. Even if you follow all of our advice here on the Data Driven Daily, if you communicate your insights poorly or mislead the audience it can be worse than not using data at all.

Some of the worst business decisions in history were data driven! When the rise of Pepsi was threatening Coke’s dominance in the soft drink category, Coke took a data driven approach to the problem. They formulated New Coke and found in taste tests across the country that it beat Pepsi hands down. Armed with conclusive data, the company bet their future on New Coke.

Unfortunately, part of the story of New Coke was missing. New Coke was extremely sweet, so it would easily win a taste test where the customer drank a single sip, but was distasteful in a full cup or bottle. Additionally, the testers failed to measure the emotional attachment customers had with the old flavor of Coke, which they had grown up with as children. Without that context for the test data, the fact that customers did not like New Coke was lost on the decision makers. After a disastrous launch the company had to desperately pivot back to their original formula. [1]

This week we’ll show how storytelling can affect how people view the same data in different ways. All week we will tell stories about a single set of data in 3 different ways and which imply three different conclusions. Here is the data we will use, which is monthly revenue data for a company with four products:

Raw data to use for data storytelling

Raw data to use for data storytellingThere are no obvious conclusions to draw from the raw data, we’ll need to do our work as data experts to explore the data and tell the stories it is hiding. What stories will we tell about this data?

Tomorrow we will get started with the worst kinds of stories, those designed to purposefully lie to you.

[1] Snopes has a great breakdown of the New Coke disaster if you’d like to read more.

Quote of the Day: “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ― Philip Pullman