The eight questions
Once a message is chosen and the data is contextualised and compared to a relevant dataset, it’s time to articulate it in an engaging format. To do so, variables need to be considered and questions answered.
1. Who is your audience?
Creating content without a clear understanding of the audience risks providing them information they don’t understand, don’t have time to process or simply don’t need.
2. Is your audience knowledgeable about your topic?
The use of jargon and abbreviations may be commonplace in your area of specialisation. However, consider the fact that it may not be widely understood by your audience. One of the easiest ways to avoid this mistake is the pub test. When putting your content together, imagine that you are explaining your reasoning to a friend in a pub. This should significantly decrease the odds of being misunderstood.
3. Do you know how much time your audience will spend on your content?
Always remember that you are competing for your audiences’ time and attention. You should consider them as time-poor by default. Make sure that what interests them most is both quickly and easily accessible. Sometimes it means putting the conclusion or key insights first and follow up with the explanation. Breaking your content down with informative subheadings and an index where possible is an option.
4. Can you link each element of your content to a central theme?
Elements that are not directly contributing towards your main theme may distract instead of inform your audience. A unified, coherent and clear message is easier to memorise and to share.
5. Do the elements have a logical flow?
Linking the different parts of your analysis together not only helps your audience to memorise it and it also provides strength and conviction to your argument thus increasing its persuasive power.
There are many possible scripts you can follow:
Underline what the problem is.
Come up with a solution.
Define a call to action.
Describe the main situation (e.g. global).
Focus on a specific area.
These examples are not exhaustive. Feel free to build your own based on the message’s requirements.
6. Can you find a twist in your data? Something unexpected?
A surprising element is always an excellent hook. It can also be the reason why the content is produced in the first place.
7. Can your audience relate to your work?
Is there a way you can link it to their personal experience or environment?
It is easier for people to understand and remember a story if they can relate it to something familiar to them. The New York Times is an excellent source of inspiration for inclusive titles, such as ‘The voting habits of Americans like you’ or ‘Money, race and success: How your school district compares’. When using big numbers always keep it simple. Ideally try to find an appropriate practical comparison. Compare the difference between the two statements below:
Each day, every customer generates c.5,000 MB of data.
Each day, every customer generates enough data to make two full-length feature films.
8. Do you want your audience to take action after reading your content?
The final objective should always be to action the insights you have presented. Make sure that what you are suggesting flows naturally from the content. Inform but be careful not to be patronising. Make it easy for your audience to check your references, hyperlink where you can.
The emotional connexion. Be more like Donald Trump
Everyone can be a storyteller
The 3C rules: Choose a message, contextualise, compare
The cherry on top:
title and details
Tracking down the unicorn: a live example
A sad story: when
data is not enough