Data Storytelling vs Data Visualisation

Richard Jones our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 11/7/2019 9:00 AM
The demand for “unicorn” employees is growing. Those with humanities and communications skillsets are now in demand, alongside those who specialise in Computer Science, Data Science, and anything technology-related. So, what exactly is the world looking for today?

Well, with the plethora of online learning opportunities available, the ramping up of technology courses both online and offline, and a cadre of storytelling books on the shelves; answering the question can seem daunting. But there are two ways in which you tell your story. They’re not separate exactly, but they do have their own parts to play.

What is Data Storytelling?


In a nutshell, it’s the ability to tell a story using the Data you’ve collected and analysed. So, how does this work exactly, and why would someone use it? This way to explain what’s happening the Data to stakeholders and executives helps paint a picture of their company in a different way. And unlike traditional storytelling, this type has facts and figures to back it up.

But that’s only half the story.

By taking a wider view of Data storytelling, you can provide stakeholders with the big picture in a way that’s relevant and engaging. But you still need the Data to back it up. This is where Data Visualisation comes in. Think of it as the Graphic Novel of your business’s story. Content is the narrative and images are the visual behind the narrative cementing the story in your mind.

What is Data Visualisation?


This is how you define your story, and you can do this in a variety of ways. You can use Data Visualisation software to help guide your story and keep you on track in the details. Seeing is believing and can help persuade a call-to-action from decision makers.

In a nutshell, Data Visualisation enhances storytelling using traditional techniques such as a “hook”, and embodies the basic structure of beginning, middle, and end. And while those in the marketing world know how to draw emotion and get people to act on it, Data Storytelling provides a new, useful skill for Analysts.

What are the Elements of a Good Story?


First, understand the story you’re telling. While visualising the results happens at the end to cement the story you’re telling, the heavy lifting is done in Data preparation. It’s not unlike baking a cake; you spend more time buying (collecting/gathering) the ingredients, mixing them, and organising (which pan, how long, and at what temperature), than you do baking the cake. The end result is the smell of something freshly baked, that looks amazing (visualisation), and tastes phenomenal – where the story and the visuals come together.

Second, identify the main characters; your Data elements. You need ask yourself what is the relationship between your characters (Data elements) and was is their role in the story.

This can help you bring together two disparate Datasets. Ask yourself, what tools would you need to make things work together? This is the preparation side of things. Once this is sorted, you have the elements of your story. 

Keys to Good Data Storytelling


  • Choose the right subject
  • Source credible Data
  • Craft an interesting, engaging, or enlightening narrative
  • Ensure your story provides meaning and value
  • Ensure you’re using credible Data to back up your story.
  • Blend narrative and visuals which can cement the information and make your story stick.
  • Choose relevant, useful topics for a more engaging story. You want your listeners to resonate with what they’re hearing or seeing. When people are engaged, this is where the emotion comes in.

Stories come from a variety of sources, but are essentially either internal (you or your organisation) or external (trade publications or industry leaders). For content marketing, external sources offer a variety of ideas to tailor your story around. But what best will resonate with your audience is your internal story. Those tailored to pain points or interests are particularly valuable. 

Remember that Data storytelling is not a story about numbers; it’s about humans and how those numbers affect them. 

If you’re interested in Data Storytelling and Visualisation, we may have a role for you. Take a look at our current vacancies or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more. 

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