4 Tips for Building Your Data Story


What mental image does the word “data” conjure up for you? Do you imagine a dry set of facts that stays behind the scenes?

On the contrary, your business data can be a launchpad for telling compelling stories about your camp or school—stories that influence customers to choose you over your competitor. In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how stories help people connect with their emotions, which neuroscientists say affect their decision-making.1

If you’d like to try your hand at boosting your business with data stories, I want to offer some guidelines from marketing pros2 to improve the value of your data story:

Find your key message

Whatever insights emerge from your data that are worth sharing, think about the key story you can draw from those insights. How would you summarize that story in one sentence? A barrage of data takeaways can overwhelm and dilute your message.

Using our fictional camp, Camp Snooze-ya-Lose, let’s say that the director has been keeping up with campers since they left camp and can provide statistics about how many graduated high school or college, are achieving career success, and perhaps even donate to the camp. The numbers seem impressive. He might even go so far as to surmise:

Camp Snooze-ya-Lose campers learn cooperative skills that solve problems and help them become leaders.

He narrows that down to a tagline or hashtag: #CampSpawnsLeaders.

He uses that hashtag to start and keep a conversation going about camp alumni success, including the hashtag every time he shares various components of the alumni story (stats, images, posts, or links).

Package the story into different formats

When you have strong data that validates your mission, get all the mileage you can out of that content. Consider each element of your data story (stats+narrative+ visuals), and use them on different platforms.

Camp Snooze-ya-Lose’s director could share his alumni success data in the following ways:

  • A series of blogposts featuring successful alumni, while building in relevant stats from the larger alumni pool.
  • A graph or chart highlighting his data on Instagram.
  • A timely Twitter post, aimed at high school juniors in the spring:#Classof2018, check out the #camp skills these successful @SYLCamp alumni say helped jumpstart their careers.
  • A Facebook post highlighting a quote (requested by the director) from an alumnus with a relevant statistic added:“Wilderness training at Camp Snooze-ya-Lose taught me how to cooperate with others to solve problems—a skill I’ve used every day in my career.” – @JoeBigwig, CEO of @AwesomeSauceEngineering, who is among the 25% of STEM alumni from Camp Snooze.
    The director then posts a reply:

Thanks for giving us some love @joebigwig even after you hit the big time. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. #CampSpawnsLeaders.

Recognize your bias

When you’re using data for marketing purposes, you have a bias. We all do. Recognize that your numbers can be easily slanted, and you may not have a high enough data set to be statistically significant or “scientific.” So take care how you present them.

Camp Snooze-ya-Lose’s director knows that many factors contribute to his campers’ success. He’s aware that many of them come from middle to upper class homes and already have a foundation towards lifelong success. Rather than claim that his camp is solely responsible for his alumni’s success, he’s going to want to frame those numbers with humor:

We can’t take all the credit, but @SYLCamp alumni are an impressive bunch! #CampSpawnsLeaders

He can also find great supporting data about the long term value of camp at other sources to tell along with his own findings.

Get started with good data

Remember, the first step to telling good data stories is capturing the data itself. Camp & Class Manager’s reporting feature helps you get the numbers you need to tell your story.

With an accurate data picture of your camp, “snooze” won’t be a word that fits your marketing story.


1 Forbes: Data Storytelling: The Essential Data Science Skill Everyone Needs 

2 HBR: How Content Marketers Can Tell Better Stories with Data 


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About Gina Calvert

Gina Calvert is the Senior Marketing Writer for ACTIVE Network, providing marketing and business resources for active lifestyle organizations across a range of markets, including government, nonprofits, camps, schools and endurance events, for more than six years.