An Introduction to Data Storytelling (With Examples Guaranteed to Inspire You)

Montse Gil
October 4, 2021
7-minute read
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The pace at which companies gather information these days is mind-blowing. Whether you want to analyze your business´s individual transactions or its overall performance, you can now retrieve such data thanks to IT tools and modern BI techniques.

However, even if these solutions have proven effective, most businesses are still failing to take full advantage of the information they collect.

How so?

Like everything, the spreadsheets and tools commonly used to collect and organize data have several limitations:

  • since manual reporting is still prevalent, the need for human intervention hinders the flow of communication and the analysis of data
  • most marketing and sales teams lack the time and resources to answer all reporting requests
  • presenting data in charts and figures is not the best way to communicate insights and persuade an audience

The bottom-line is:

 Data only tells us what is happening. But they do not tell us how or why it is happening.

So, what can be done about it? you might be wondering.

If you want to transform your data into useful information that all stakeholders of your company understand and have access to, the answer is simple: Data Storytelling

And we are here to tell you all about it!

What is data storytelling?

It is no secret that we humans are naturally social beings, and it has always been through stories that we have managed to comprehend the information of the world around us. In fact, stories have shaped our values, dreams, and prejudices more than anything else.

However, with our evolution came the burning need to satisfy our rational brains. Hence, the creation of scientific disciplines.

Since then, we have become more aware of the power of stories and the importance of including hard facts. And thus, the art of data storytelling was born.

“Without data, you are just another person with an opinion”- W. Edwards Deming

This practice consists of creating a narrative around a set of data in order to convey its meaning in a more digestible, compelling, and rememberable fashion. 

This approach to storytelling encompasses features of disciplines like analysis, communication, and design.

Data storytelling enables you to make better choices, create effective and relatable content, and step up your content marketing game.

Key elements of data storytelling

In order to build an effective story around data, you must consider three key elements: data, visualization, and narrative.

In order to know if you need to include all three elements within your story, you need to consider the ultimate purpose of your storytelling

  • When you only intend to explain the facts, a balanced combination of narrative and data suffice to give an insight of the problem.
  • To incentivize engagement and entertain your audience, you must think of a solid narrative accompanied by great visual aids.
  • And to enlighten your audience the best way to go is using a smart visualization of a curated set of data.

But if your goal is to persuade or change, you must tell a compelling story (narrative) backed up by facts (data) and simplified by visual elements (visualization).


key elements of data storytelling

Why is it important? 

If you are still hesitant to adopt this sort of storytelling, perhaps the following points will convince you to do it once and for all.

  • It's credible

Anchoring your story to reliable sources makes your message and your brand trustworthy. And, since more and more companies overlook the importance of credible data, harnessing its power will separate you from the competition. 

  • Provides meaning and value

In a world where we're drowning in data and desperate for meaning, data storytelling is the ideal tool to provide valuable insight, which, at the same time, helps your audience make better and more informed decisions. To find out more, you might want to watch the TedTalk “Making data mean more through storytelling”.

  • Enhances your PR game

Coming up with unique and original story ideas out of the blue is a grueling task. But using data as a source of inspiration is a game-changer. With internal data, you can tell a story that no other brand can tell about your industry, your customers, and more. 

  • Makes your message memorable

By mixing a narrative with visual aids, you are appealing to both the emotional and analytical hemispheres of your customers´ brains. Data visualization stimulates your audience while enhancing their comprehension and increasing their capacity for retention.  

  • It is versatile

The insights retrieved from data stories can be communicated in several formats, such as annual reports, white papers, infographics, articles, brochures, presentations, and more. And, at any moment, these insights can be reused, repurposed, and incorporated into new content.  

 How to tell a compelling story with data

To begin your journey as a data storyteller, you must first find credible sources of great data to get your creative juices flowing. Luckily, there are many ways to get your hands on it. 

If you´re focused on creating content marketing to build or position your brand, internal data sources are your friends. Consider using your business analytics, customer data, surveys, reports, etc.

External data sources will be most useful for content marketing tailored to your target audience's interests or pain points. To access this information, you can rely on government agencies, industry organizations, and research institutions.

Once you have collected, analyzed and curated the findings of your research, it is time to craft an engaging and enlightening narrative. 

Whatever creative process you may follow, do not forget that your narrative should be able to guide readers through, provide context, and help them synthesize the data story as effectively as possible.

Once you have a solid story, you must select the main take-aways and figure out a way to explain them visually. 

Beware of looking over this last step. Because one of the most common ways to sabotage your storytelling is through complex or irrelevant visual elements. 

The best practice is to keep it simple and relevant. If you can't understand your graphics within a few seconds, then they need to be redesigned. 

It might sound easy but trust me, it's not. Therefore, do not be ashamed to seek help if you don't seem to get it right. That's why we, designers, are here!

Spot on! 

Data Storytelling is not a new fad. A lot of companies have been using it for many years now and have greatly profited from it!

Here are two examples of how Spacex and The Marine Stewardship Council tapped into the power of data storytelling to communicate with their groups of interest.


The company uses data storytelling to justify their lunar mission. With a very pleasing and accurate visualization, the narrative references the past achievements of the human race and provides information about the importance of continuing the efforts to revisit the moon, in order to learn more about Earth’s closest habitable neighbors.

Finally, the space company informs of its plan to perform the titanic endeavor. 

From the chosen spacecraft to the typical approach to a mission around the moon, SpaceX made sure to depict its vision to perfection.  

man on the moon space tavel

The Marine Stewardship Council

In order to raise awareness about the fast-changing conditions of the ocean, The Marine Stewardship Council launched a fantastic project — story— named “How my dad fishes for the future

Through an interactive page, the organization tells the story of a young girl and her fisherman father. 

With hard facts and an inviting plot, the main character of the story incites the audience to join her in her quest to preserve the oceans. 

This literary resource proved to be more stimulating and convincing than a long presentation of graphs and statistics! 

planet ocean planet life

In a nutshell

To persuade people, you must present evidence in favor of your proposition. And to actually trigger change, you need to tell an inspiring story. Little does it matter if you spent countless hours doing extensive research and analysis if you don't know how to explain your findings through a relatable or exciting story. 

Keep in mind that the goal is to compress hours and hours of hard work and complex information into a brief narrative with facts that are easily understandable. It's up to you to make your message memorable. 

Last but not least, data storytelling can guide the way you work and the choices you make. By incorporating this strategy, you will create quality content that gets your point across effectively, makes an impact on your audience, and improves your ROI.

So, what are you waiting for?

If you want to find out more how Tenscope can help you use your data wisely, book a demo now!

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