November 27, 2014 ↘︎

3 suggestions to make your beautiful data story heard.

Delivering the message and ensuring it’s understood is the responsibility of the sender.

Sounds bloody obvious right? Let’s imagine you’ve followed my suggestions from my previous 2 posts – you’ve authored an amazing narrative based on your brand story, data and analytics. You discovered you have some great stories to share with your colleagues. Then you got creative and designed the most beautiful and compelling presentation – the world’s best infographic perhaps. What will you do next? My guess is stick it on a PowerPoint slide and gather people in a room and ‘present it’. I reckon I’m at least 90% right.

I regularly sit through presentations by other people, and I regularly author my own. Honestly, I’m so bored of PowerPoint, I actually get quite excited when someone doesn’t use it! I sat through a major insights presentation today and the most exciting moment was when the flip chart got used – a creative moment that brought intrigue, woke us up and felt a whole lot more human.

3 ways to get your point across.

So, here are my thoughts on how you can ensure that all your hard work gets heard/seen and understood:

1. Segment your audience.

You can usually count on the fingers of one hand the number of key stakeholders that have to understand the story. Isolate them, and consider them your primary audience. As key opinion formers they will share information with other people. Then consider the next layer of management – the key managers. And then consider the ‘linchpins’, those people whose passion, knowledge and experience makes them critical cogs in your organisation. If you believe that everyone wants to know everything, you are wrong.

2. Identify the most effective delivery method.

We did some work for a client recently that had a well established intranet with department specific noticeboards, general noticeboards, forum areas, etc. Nobody read anything that was placed there. When we surveyed their communication habits email was top of the heap. I’m not saying email is the answer, but the most effective methods of communication across organisations are usually the most established and easiest to use. I have 4 suggestions:

    • E.R.E (Everyone Reads Emails)
      Email. Not just any email – a personal newsletter for every key stakeholder. Prioritise 4 or 5 of the most relevant key insights, use a simple newsletter builder service such as Campaign Monitor (which is easy and will make you look awesome) and send a nicely laid out, image heavy, personalised email to each key stakeholder. You may be lucky and can share one newsletter with all of the stakeholders. BUT if you feel that there’s a need for 2 or 3 distinct executions, DO IT. Don’t forget to write a compelling subject line and heavily feature how stakeholders can contact you to find out more.


    • R.O.A.R (Reliable Old Analogue Resource)
      Print it out. Write a handwritten note. Get a nice envelope. Walk to the key stakeholder’s office. Hit them up with a bright and breezy; ‘I know you’re very busy, but we’ve discovered some fantastic insights this month so I thought I’d give you something to read when you’re between meetings or on your next flight.
      At worst – hand it to their secretary or assistant. Remember often secretaries and assistants are linchpins in your relationship with your stakeholders. Be nice.


    • F.C.A.F (Free Coffee And Food)
      This is perfect for the next level of management below your key stakeholders – and the linchpins. Set a date for a breakfast meeting – either 30 minutes before official work hours or first thing in the working day. Book a room, take a coffee order (no vending machine or instant coffee allowed!) and lay on muffins and pastries. Share your story. Being that it’s informal, think about how to present your story – whether a screen is best or a wipe board or a flip chart or a one page printout or a combo of any of them – remember you’ve got roughly 30 minutes to leave them with a feeling of ‘Wow, that was interesting – and I got fed for free too!
      Host a Q&A. Laugh. Have fun. If you nail this, people will talk and you’re likely to have a larger audience next time.


  • S.S.P (Shameless Self Promotion)
    Make a fridge magnet for the communal kitchen. Launch a competition e.g. whoever guesses this month’s Engagement Score correctly gets a free dinner for 2! Make posters for the inside of the toilet cubicle doors. Be different. Plant seeds. Create intrigue. Encourage curiosity.

3. Be consistent.

If you’re a flash-in-the pan people will lose faith. Share the workload as a team. Put together a schedule for the coming months that allocates time and resource to analysing the data, creating the dashboards, defining the story and creating the most effective presentation. Book forward dates for the breakfast meeting; continue to think creatively about analogue executions (tie your note to a nice bottle of vino if someone’s a had a successful month vs. KPI’s?); update the internal marketing materials, take down the old ones, etc.

If you don’t maintain your own standards you’ll only have yourself to blame if you lose the attention that you worked so hard to create. Good luck!

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on November 27, 2014.
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