by Sian Freestone-Walker, Associate Director of Client Services
As an agency that was founded and has grown in the age of data, our first decade has seen a gradual awakening by clients to the importance of data in how they tell their story. A good deal of the public may still only consider data in terms of their mobile device usage, but from businesses to charities and government departments to universities, we always ensure that clients know the value of data in gaining media traction.
In an age where data is a regular topic of discussion in both Parliament and rolling news bulletins, it is no longer an option for organisations to dismiss its importance as ‘something for the tech sector’. Data should be a part of every business’s brand arsenal, especially as there are two useful ways to approach its use.
Firstly, there are almost always stories to be found within the data of an organisation, be they in the commercial, charity or any other sector. These stories are found in the day-to-day data that the company needs to operate, which could be anything from customer demographics to sales figures. A sudden influx of members, drop in sales of particular products or a boom in sign-ups to certain university courses could all point towards a story that could be exploited in the media. Are these signs of economic or societal shockwaves, changing tastes or of new trends to come?
Even asking the question ‘why?’ about such data may be enough to pique the interest of journalists. Consumer media has long been held in thrall by the simple survey, which, with the right polling company or academic institution behind it, can give your client the leading story in anything from The Sun to Today on Radio 4. These stories work in the same way and need not always be the most in-depth, or indeed serious.
These internal data stories can be a quick win for businesses looking to begin to see what data might do for them, but the larger stories require more thinking and a lot more work. Asking questions and collecting or collating new data offers the opportunity to lead the conversation and establish your brand as being at the forefront of new thinking, new discoveries and innovation.
With one of our longest-standing clients being the Open Data Institute (ODI), you would expect Allegory to have a firm grip of how these more in-depth data stories can work. We worked with the ODI for several years on what we term their ‘flagship stories’, which are new pieces of original research. These usually lead to a report and the creation of a data visualisation or a data tool that journalists or members of the public can use to explore the data and create their own narratives. The report and supporting tools are published on the ODI’s website, creating rich content and the chance to attract new visitors, highlight other work and attract new members, newsletter sign-ups and events attendees.
For the most recent of these flagship stories, we worked closely with the ODI to commission new research around data relating to food poverty. This was an area we identified as being one where there may be both interesting data and a story to tell about what data was not there, or was being under-reported.
Working with our research partners and the ODI, we identified potential stakeholders, both to ascertain their own access to relevant data and to seek their backing later in the process. This saw us establish links with food banks, campaigning charities and organisations that spoke to or for those impacted by food insecurity.
It also allowed us to tell the story of how the ODI might intervene to improve the collection and use of such data, thus contextualising the story and fulfilling the brief to increase visibility of the importance of data infrastructure. A story about data infrastructure is not something that would interest the mainstream news media per se, but the use of new data to establish our story led to coverage of the report’s findings on ITV flagship news show Good Morning Britain, as well on the James O’Brien show on LBC radio. Both shows’ production teams shared details on the story to their extensive social media followings, leading to an exponential increase in traffic to our client’s Twitter account and website.
The story featured in further broadcast and print media including Metro, Mumsnet, Research Live and Computer Weekly as well as attracting enquiries from target media wanting to use our work for researching later stories, which illustrates the long tail that can be achieved with data stories. The online content is evergreen and, when done well, can be referenced everywhere from consumer media to academic papers.
If you would like to hear more about how we’ve used data to create compelling content or find out how we could do it for you, please get in touch via email@example.com.
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