Updated: Nov 11, 2019
A good story does two things. First, it gives the reader information, facts and opinions, thus providing a takeaway for impact. Second, it makes the reading journey pleasurable and insightful with a healthy dose of creativity, stylistic uniqueness and well-informed interpretation of existing analyses. Without one of these two factors, a story would either be vapid and lacking substance or it would end up a dry mass of facts. This means that many readers wouldn’t be able to swallow or make any use of it.
Enthusiastic, interested readers crave this exquisite balance between the yin and yang. So, give them something to not just read, but to absorb and remember.
Thorough research is now a matter of hygiene - to tell a good story with integrity. If you expect to be taken seriously, then back your claims with meaningful statistics, research findings and expert opinions. While you do this, ensure that you are deriving your credibility from, well, credible sources. Yes, the Internet is a goldmine of conjectures and assumptions turned into unfaltering absolutes.
Make sure the research journals from which you cull out information have a substantial impact factor. This is a measure of the frequency of citations that the journal has achieved, indicating how widely its findings are relied on. Another thing to remember in perfecting the art of research is the significance of corroboration. Especially for well-researched topics, it is important to check that the research you are reading has been replicated by others and the results are somewhat similar. If you know, however, that the platform you are depending on is rigorous and transparent in their studies, then you can rest assured that as the authority in the field of study, their findings are of more value than anyone else’s. Companies like Gallup, and professional networks like KPMG are a solid source of trustworthy information on businesses and trends. Statista, the statistics portal, makes life even easier by consolidating reams of stats from across the world.
If, however, your topic is purely conversational and opinion-based, then make sure to stress on:
1. Clarity of thought
2. Rationale behind your statements
So, carry out sound research, incorporate your rationale, and you will know what story needs to be told. Read more – write better!
Take a Swim
Your perspective matters. It gives a human angle to dry facts, and this is absolutely essential when reaching out to people through stories. Without your insights and interpretation of data, the piece of writing will amount to a Wikipedia page. So after you have taken your deep dive into the vast pool of information, make sure to actually swim around a little. Explore the information, filter through it, add your own insight, and make sense of it – Rather than just quoting it verbatim or adding it into your article with a generic, “According to research.”
Once you know the material well enough, or have understood and absorbed even some of it, it becomes possible to have an opinion or analysis about it. Even if it is the simplest of opinions, like how some information is potentially more interesting to the target audience than others. This is an important perspective. It helps you filter the necessary from the irrelevant, and indicates which points you should focus more energy and words on. When looking at statistics start asking “why?” and “how?” and connect the dots to ultimately come to an insight that will help you and your readers. This is where creativity and lateral thinking come in. Nothing happens without reason. And everything is more interesting with a rationale. After all, with no rationale, companies and organizations would have no reason do to their research. If time-consuming, laborious research is answering a question, surely the question was an important one and therefore had significant repercussions. It is essential to know and understand these repercussions.
Suppose you are looking at content consumption statistics telling you that certain social media platforms show higher consumption volumes than others.
You know the numbers, now give them meaning.
1. Why are certain platforms preferred over others for content consumption?
2. How does this information give your audience a persona that you can rely on to predict future trends?
3. Could it be that people access content on the go and therefore prefer more visuals with short, crisp text?
4. Should we as a brand branch out from writing articles and add Instagram posts to our kitty?
While this is a simple example of questioning research, it is important. When you present someone with facts to help illustrate your point, then take them on the journey with you. Tell them why these numbers saliently demonstrate that what you are saying makes sense. Data-driven insights and creativity go hand in hand when it comes to storytelling. Connect the two so you can both quote the right facts and bring out their essence.