Data-Driven Storytelling: How to Create Data-Driven Stories (w/ Examples)

Table of contents

At some point, every PR professional struggles to find interesting angles and create newsworthy stories. 

Let’s face it: nobody cares if your company is the “largest homegrown retailer in the region” or the “best employer in the world”. 

On the other hand, when one comes across a headline that reads, ‘550,000 travelers used Airbnb on New Year’s Eve’, it’s sure to catch their attention. 

It’s a great data-driven storytelling example: Instead of making a generic statement here, Airbnb used consumer data to tell an engaging story through an animated video which got them a good amount of media coverage.

PR storytelling example from Airbnb
Data-driven storytelling example from Airbnb

This tells us that if you want to stand out in a noisy market, you need to start digging into storytelling PR and create data-driven stories. 

Data has the power to establish authority, build trust, and inspire action but a lot matters on how that data is communicated. 

This is why data-driven storytelling can play a pivotal role in your PR strategy, helping you use data to communicate insights and craft a powerful narrative that’s both persuasive and memorable. 

Let’s take a look at how you can use data to amplify your storytelling PR efforts and secure more coverage. 

Storytelling PR in practice

1. Find a strong story angle

Before you start working with data, you need to ask yourself what story you want to tell. 

As a MasterClass rightly puts it:

In public relations, the best angles highlight the unique qualities of the clients they represent. Journalists receive hundreds of (press) releases a day—in order to be noticed, there must be some kind of angle to intrigue the writer after they give it the briefest of cursory glances. Why should they care? Why do they need to write this specific story?

Here are a few ideas to get you brainstorming on story angles for your storytelling PR efforts:

  • Offer solutions
  • Highlight trends and patterns
  • Present surprising facts or concerns
  • Provide insights 
  • Piggyback on a current news story (and tie it back to your brand)
  • Share human interest stories

Remember: the story angle you choose needs to be one that helps you meet your brand objectives while being of interest to readers. 

Once you know what you want to achieve from the PR campaign, you can start finding data to build and strengthen that story.

2. Gather data from reliable sources

At a time when we are dealing with a deluge of data, the real challenge lies in finding the right kind of data that would make for an interesting story.

There are two types of data sources:

  • External: data that is available to the public
  • Internal: data that exclusively belongs to your company

While external data sources include government data, industry reports, and published studies, it’s the internal data that make for powerful assets because they are unique and exclusively yours. 

Here are some ways to gather internal data for your PR campaigns:

  • Create surveys to gather interesting data and identify trends
  • Perform market research
  • Dig into consumer data to extract insights
  • Check Google Analytics to study website behavior and identify patterns
  • Repurpose customer success stories into data-driven PR stories
  • Study company sales trends and release reports

Take the online dating site, OkCupid for instance. They used their consumer data to create a report titled ‘Future of Dating’ which talks about the biggest dating trends of 2021. This report got covered by many leading publications. 

PR storytelling example from OkCupid
Data-driven storytelling example from OkCupid

3. Build a compelling narrative

Raw data is meaningless. What’s important for data-driven storytelling is extracting value from that data and weaving a compelling narrative that helps people understand and digest that information. 

Start with grouping the data into categories. Check if there’s any statistic that stands out — sometimes one startling statistic is all you need to build a story on. 

If nothing stands out on its own, see if you can make comparisons between categories or make correlations. 

The idea is to pick a few interesting data points, give them meaning, and create context. This comes from knowing who your target audience is and developing a story that would resonate with them. 

Then, before narrowing down on the data points to include, ask yourself: so what?

4. Create visuals to present data 

If you think sending a text-heavy press release to journalists and editors is enough to get you coverage, you’re mistaken. It’s equally important to present your data in a visually appealing manner.

Press release sample - Champion Health
Data-driven storytelling example from Champion Health

Data can be intimidating and creating visualizations will help you:

  • Make data engaging and digestible
  • Identify trends and outliers
  • Reinforce an argument
  • Highlight important sets of data

What’s more, the fact that press releases with visuals garner nearly twice as many views as text alone proves that sharing visuals to complement your data-driven PR story is a must-do.

Depending on the data and target audience, you can create data visualizations such as:

  • Infographics: to give an easy-to-understand overview of a concept
  • Charts: to compare categories, show changes, or reveal relationships
  • Diagrams: to map out processes or connect ideas
  • Maps: to represent geographic or regional information

For instance, Venngage created an infographic to present the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment. 

After collecting data from multiple sources and plotting the narrative, we pulled out the key data points and designed a comprehensive infographic. We then reached out to journalists and writers who covered environmental issues. 

The infographic was particularly well-received by nonprofit organizations who shared it with their audiences on their social media platforms and blogs. It’s a great data-driven storytelling example to draw inspiration from.

PR storytelling example from Venngage
Data-driven storytelling example from Venngage

Boost your storytelling PR efforts with data

In addition to having good communication, creative writing, and media relations skills, it’s critical for PR professionals of today to be effective, data-driven storytellers. 

The ability to tell stories through data is sure to help you boost your data-driven storytelling efforts and develop campaigns that will garner media interest and appeal to the general public. 

Cover photo by Alexander Sinn