3 Tips for uncovering 
the story behind the data

“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” 

-Jean Luc Godard, French Swiss film director


Stories are powerful. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a story is likely worth a thousand pictures. In market research, where you may have hundreds or thousands of data points, data storytelling is an essential skill to effectively communicate and influence your audience in a clear, concise, compelling, manner.

Even the most successful authors and filmmakers will tell you that creating a powerful story isn’t easy. It is a skill to be developed with practice. It requires a cycle of exploration, ideation, refinement, and launch (sharing), much like the Pragmatic Marketing Framework for product development.

Besides the obvious guidelines of knowing your audience, identifying your objective, writing with clarity, etc., here are three practical tips to get you started:

  1. Create a process that you are comfortable with. Some people like templates that list the critical components of a story (i.e., setting, characters, problem, solution, etc.) Others prefer a free-form approach with key points on post-it notes spread out, moving them around and linking them with other thoughts until a flow is established. Either way, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to start at the beginning of the story, and it’s okay if you don’t include all of the data or insights you have in a story.
  2. Get feedback from a few different sources: Obviously feedback from a colleague will help you see if you’re on track and how your story will be received. Additionally, soliciting input  from someone naïve to the topic will indicate if your story is clear and coherent – listen for the questions that they ask to see where you may have holes to fill in.
  3. Be open to change: It’s likely that you will become passionate about the story you create, but don’t let your ownership get in the way of making changes. Be open to critiques and feedback, and evolving the story over time as new data supports it. Remember, it’s not your story – it is the story of/for your consumers. You are merely the storyteller.

Here at Lillian Labs, we do a ton of work counseling clients on this. So, if