Telling a Story With Metrics: How Do You Explain Metrics to Stakeholders?

By now, you may already know: data is integral to understanding the success of a media campaign. However, what may come as a challenge is how to tell stakeholders the story behind the data. What might be clear to you is not always easily understood by those who are not involved in the day-to-day communications activities of your campaign. Communications professionals have to be prepared to analyze and interpret the numbers they are reporting on, and the first step to doing this is to visualize your data.

What is data visualization?

Data visualization is a graphical display of information. This includes bar charts, pie charts, scatter plots, and line graphs. Regardless of the kind of chart used, they all share a common purpose: summarize data in a way that demonstrates trends and relationships. Ideally, any graph or chart you produce should visualize as much data as possible with as little ink as possible. This method, theorized by Edward Tufte, a statistician and professor at Yale University, advises a minimal approach to graphs, in which distracting lines and backgrounds are removed for the sake of prioritizing the data at hand.

When presenting data to investors, board members, or other stakeholders, a graphical display can make all the difference in communicating your successes. Luckily, you don’t have to be a statistician to successfully graph data. There are all sorts of tools to choose from that will collect data from social media platforms, and visualize them with trends over time. If you don’t have budget to spend on software, most social media platforms offer basic data and graphs that show how your content is performing, as well. Once you get your data and graphs, it’s time to detail what it all means.

How do I explain it all?

After you have presented clear visuals to stakeholders, it’s important to discuss those visuals in greater detail. Are there any notable trends that are worth noting? Is there a spike or drop in the chart that indicates a boost or decline in performance?

Ask yourself these questions before a stakeholder does because their questions will help form the story you tell for the data. Consider the goals of your communications activities. Does your data provide insight as to how you are achieving those goals, or insight into where your challenges might be? Your audience might not be familiar with this kind of reporting or all of the terms contained within. Be sure to provide a glossary of terms that defines your metrics so any unfamiliar terms can be referenced even when you’re not part of the discussion.

Generally speaking, the story behind your data doesn’t change. What can change is how you tell it. Keep your audience in mind, and tell the version of this story that will resonate the most with them.


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