Financial Services firms require vast amounts of data to operate and make mission-critical decisions; Consumer data, market data, actuarial charts, rate schedules, exchange rates, just to name a few. The tension for the financial services marketer and insights professional is that the data-driven culture has the potential to mute the critical human and emotional factors that drive decisions and behaviors related to investments, insurance, and other financial matters.
Effective storytelling can help deliver the data leaders require in a way that brings the human element to the forefront, making insights easy to digest and clear to action against. Stories shape how we understand and react to information. By utilizing them properly with leaders we allow for the strategic implications to rise to the top in a concise, yet deeply meaningful way.
At Radius, we’ve developed a strategic storytelling approach that helps you deliver an insightful report to spark activation among your stakeholders.
Effective storytelling can help deliver the data leaders require in a way that brings the human element to the forefront, making insights easy to digest and clear to action against.”
Following are the six main principles we use for strategic report storytelling:
1. Draft a strong narrative framework
Strategic report stories rely on crisp narrative.
The narrative begins with the first collaboration we have with the brand team. We dig deep to understand the real problem and what’s at stake for the brand. This informs the approach we’ll take throughout the project, including which research methods are best. Often, we’ll use a Mixed Methodology approach to combine data with qualitative research that allows the voice of the customer to blend with the narrative.
Throughout the process, there will be twists and turns that might slightly change the direction of the story but establishing an approach to the overall narrative helps to create a through point for the report story.
2. Know your audience(s)
Knowing who in the organization will use the final report and how they’ll use it is another critical step. We’re often working with a brand or research team, but we know that stakeholders throughout the organization might want to access the findings.
Once we have a clear picture of the audience, we can begin to frame our research and further develop the story we’ll tell. We frame a primary narrative that is directed to a senior-level audience and create supporting materials that can be tailored to meet the needs of the broader team.
This story report framework helps us remain audience-centric throughout the project.
Knowing who in the organization will use the final report and how they’ll use it is another critical step. We’re often working with a brand or research team, but we know that stakeholders throughout the organization might want to access the findings.”
3. Build story structure
Once all the data is in, we return to the problem the brand is trying to solve, consider the audience, and review the data to see how it informs the story report we’re writing.
We focus on a three-part narrative as an effective way to tell a strategic story. We are conditioned to expect stories to have:
- A beginning that sets the stage.
- A middle where the conflict occurs.
- An end that brings resolution.
Framing report stories in this way helps the reader quickly grasp what’s at stake and understand the insights that the data reveals.
Another way of looking at this traditional storytelling model is:
What does the data say? What are the facts?
- So what?
What does the data mean, and what is the best interpretation for the brand/product/service?
- Now what?
What are the insights and how do they lead to recommendations about what to do next?
The What/So What/Now What model is an effective framework for building report stories. It forces you to pare down all the data into its most essential elements to show the true value of the research.
4. Craft powerful visualizations
With data visualization, more is less. Data visualization should highlight the most compelling aspects of the research so that the reader can easily understand the conclusions that that data supports.
As we’re developing the visual aspect of our reports, we again consider the problem we’re solving and the audience we’re solving it for. Visuals that speak directly to the brand set the right tone and mood, acclimating the audience to relate to the story.
Concentrate on the study data that reveal the most important insights and spend time on highlighting those findings in a novel way. We’ve found that this approach leaves our audience with tangible and memorable insights.
5. Create strong implications
Make sure your story provides strategic direction and guidance on the path forward for business growth. Every insight should point to an implication for the business and a forward-looking benefit of taking action or a consequence of standing pat.
In report stories, it is important to have a point of view. To establish point of view effectively, state your case clearly, use an informative and authoritative voice, and write clear and definitive copy. Since people tend to scan the headlines before committing to reading a report, pay special attention to writing clear, definitive, and engaging headers throughout the report, and structure each slide so that it tells a mini story.
As you’re working on establishing a point of view, consider the following steps:
- Establish a starting point by describing the business situation.
- Reveal surprises or insights learned along the way to build tension and interest.
- Land at the destination by providing the strategic implications and resolution.
6. Include an Executive Summary
The Executive Summary clearly states the most relevant insights the brand can use to activate in a product, service, program, or communication.
If you’ve done all the work, above, you have all the elements needed to develop a clear and compelling summary. Pull the insights into a mini-story format, use a compelling, engaging voice, plant a flag with a clear point of view, and write short but powerful headlines. Most importantly, highlight the insights you’ve discovered and offer a forward-thinking strategy for brand growth and activation.
Download our storytelling ebook to learn more about our approach to report stories.
To learn more about our financial services offerings, contact us.