Avoid These 10 Data Storytelling Mistakes That Undermine Your Expertise


The actuality of how powerful it’s to talk every straightforward and complex ideas efficiently grew to develop into abundantly apparent to me very early on in my occupation.

Data storytelling is every an paintings and a giant expertise.


While this textual content focuses on optimizing communications concerning reporting net optimization and PPC outcomes and initiatives to purchasers, the concepts apply to all kinds of communication.


Here are 10 blunders to avoid when talking effectivity, insights, and approach in a enterprise ambiance. You’ll moreover uncover suggestions that will diploma up your reporting to purchasers and interior stakeholders.

1. Not Using Visual Cues in Data Storytelling

Any respectable reporting goes to have a visual element. After all, we’re seen creatures.

Good reporting visually calls out what’s essential. Quite a lot of examples embody:

Simple, clear visualizations that depart little room for interpretation.

Example visual aids like charts for reporting.

As pictured above, the target is to report on engagement using wedge metrics between consciousness and demand gen initiatives. The logic is obvious and rational.


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Using formatting (eg. font-weight, coloration) to stress key callouts.

Data Storytelling: 10 Common Mistakes & How to Fix Them | SEJ

Highlighting key desk data.

Example of highlighting key table data.

An data desk with many stats won’t be preferrred as a result of it requires the reader to interpret what the callout is.

However, there’s a time and place for it. In these circumstances, convey consideration to the rows/columns/cells which may be needed.

2. Telling a Story Without Context

As part of the onboarding technique of a model new client, I normally acquire a data dump with earlier reporting. More normally than not, the sooner reporting left quite a bit to be desired.


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Often, the “why” (context) is missing.

Yet, along with context in data storytelling is probably going among the best strategies to make your client reporting less complicated.

Clients don’t pay you/your organization to regurgitate statistics. They pay in your ability to drive outcomes and provide insights.

If there’s a major change in effectivity, it is advisable give context together with the stat. Going a step extra, the context you current must differ counting on the state of affairs.

I observe a primary rule of thumb: Lead with the stat when outcomes are good and lead with context when outcomes are lackluster.

If it was an off week, major with context helps clarify the “why” sooner than the reader has an preliminary unfavorable response.

For occasion, in its place of:

Lead amount dropped 70% week-over-week. This was attributable to us taking [whitepaper A] out of rotation.

Try this:

Taking [whitepaper a] out of rotation led to a 70% drop in lead amount week-over-week.

It’s a refined, nonetheless impactful distinction. In the event of delivering subpar outcomes, starting with context helps in the reduction of the unfavorable emotions.

Even if effectivity suffers attributable to 1 factor exterior of your administration, it is advisable take heed to notion and craft your research to mitigate blended emotions.

Pro Tip: Reporting ought to stability the amount of information provided. Adding hyperlinks with additional context helps to strike that stability.

Providing platform screenshots, show share films, data visualizations, and help articles helps current additional data with out the noise that together with all of that content material materials inline would create.

My go-to software program is Snagit, with which you’ll be capable to take screenshots (or show shares + voiceovers), mark them up, and add them to a publicly accessible URL like Google Drive.

3. Showing a Lack of Confidence

Whenever you speak with purchasers, it is advisable be reinforcing your expertise. Your deep information must shine via.

For occasion, how does the beneath consider to the second alternative in your ideas? What emotions spring to thoughts?

“Google recommends that we add a name extension to our search advertisements. This permits customers to click on to name a delegated cellphone quantity. Is this one thing that we wish to add?”


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Compared to:

“We advocate for using Google name extensions to our search advertisements. This offers customers one other technique to convert, in addition to will increase high quality rating. In the previous, we haven’t had the decision heart to area such calls, however I needed to test in case that has modified.”

Each occasion has the similar suggestion. However, the second occasion:

  • Gives a bit additional factor.
  • Takes the credit score rating.
  • States the recommendation.

It doesn’t beat throughout the bush. It doesn’t stop and ask questions.

Instead, it instills the reader with confidence that you just’ve bought a sturdy perspective and aren’t afraid to share it.

Here’s one different occasion:

“The “widget a and b” search campaigns are nonetheless pacing behind in spend, nonetheless we’re engaged on rising our bids using Google’s advertising marketing campaign simulator.”

In that occasion, the emphasis is on the tool’s value – Google’s advertising marketing campaign simulator — pretty than on the price being delivered to the desk by your energetic administration.


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Compare that to this:

“We’re working to maximise the quantity of “widget a and b” search campaigns by way of the usage of devices like Google’s advertising marketing campaign simulator, along with monitoring and making modifications primarily based totally on metrics like Search Impressions Share, click on on share and absolute prime of net web page Impression Share.”

Here, the principle goal is shifted in the direction of the actions taken by the individual using a software program. It moreover expands upon the assertion and showcases the expertise and authority of the creator.

4. Not Being Authoritative

One of the gadgets of strategies firms normally acquire is that they aren’t strategic ample.

Regardless of how strategic an firm is, if communication isn’t definitive and authoritative, that “not being strategic” strategies is extra more likely to be acquired.


Example of less effective wording for client feedback.

Here, the textual content material does a unbelievable job at providing a summary of effectivity, the context, and a plan of motion.


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However, there are a variety of refined tweaks that will enhance authority all through data storytelling:

Example of tweaked wording for better client feedback.

Even refined tweaks aimed to be additional authoritative lead to substantial variations in notion.

5. Setting the Tone Late

The first assertion you make is extraordinarily extremely efficient. It items the tone for what’s to return again.

By contemplating via what key message and emotion you want to depart people with and major with language that helps that goal, you maximize the chances of your required consequence.


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If you’re doing a weekly report and effectivity was sturdy for that reporting interval, don’t bury the lede. If you’ve bought a report blended with every good and harmful data, keep in mind major with the nice.

Example (distinctive):

Lead amount dropped 25% ultimate week as we shifted our focus in the direction of lower price, lower value conversion elements. This led to a 20% enchancment in CPL.

Example (revised):

CPL improved 20% ultimate week as we shifted our focus in the direction of higher-efficiency, lower price conversion elements. As anticipated, this led to a 25% drop in lead amount

In the second occasion, we start with the good news and make it clear we had been aware of the potential outcomes.

6. Making Assumptions

I’ve repeatedly found all through my occupation that assumptions about what people know are wildly inaccurate.

What is crystal clear for you won’t be the similar for everyone. This may also be true in reporting.

In the occasion from #5, the “As anticipated” assertion clarifies one factor that I normally see people merely assume a client is conscious of. Try to avoid that.


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7. Speaking Without Purpose

Words matter.

Words are extremely efficient.

While many phrases share associated definitions, the intent behind these phrases normally carries differing weights.

One phrase can change the emotion evoked by the reader. For occasion, which of the beneath statements depart you with in all probability probably the most constructive emotions when talking by the use of data storytelling?

  • Option 1: Performance was stagnant week-over-week.
  • Option 2: Performance was flat week-over-week.
  • Option 3: Performance held common week-over-week.

The third alternative leaves you with in all probability probably the most constructive emotions with utilizing “regular” as a descriptor. “Steady” carries a constructive meaning with implications of secured posture, stability, and stability as compared with “stagnant” and “flat” which often negatively recommend lack of progress or movement.

Default to positivity at any time when potential, so long as it’s truthful.

8. Not Knowing Your Audience

A report meant for a promoting and advertising supervisor will differ considerably from a report meant for govt administration.

Reporting for materials specialists must differ from non-specialists. Craft and tailor your report primarily based totally on what’s most essential to your viewers.


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For executives, maintain points extreme diploma and incorporate giant picture tendencies. For managers, get into additional of the methods.

Pro Tip: Preparing for needed govt reporting calls like quarterly enterprise opinions could also be daunting. It may very well be an issue to hunt out the sweet spot of high-level views and factor.

To circumvent this in your slides, add an appendix half that you would shortly reference must the dialog profit an on-the-fly pivot.

9. Being Shy About Your Wins

Humility is a unimaginable trait to have. However, in enterprise and with purchasers, there should be a stability between humility and assertiveness.

Don’t be afraid to own your wins.

For occasion:

“[Keyword] conversions on Google search are up 184% MoM with CPL down 36%. This is because of long-tail phrases being on a tCPA bidding technique, in addition to extra funds being pushed towards these property and key phrases.”

Compared to:

“In addition to including extra property to the combo and growing funds, we segmented long-tail KWs in teams so we might activate tCPA for our greatest performers, which led to widget conversions on Google search being up 184% MoM with CPL down 36%.”


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Always take credit score rating when pivoting has a constructive have an effect on on effectivity.

10. Diluting Your Main Takeaway

Digital promoting and advertising isn’t getting any simpler, and neither is data storytelling. The amount of information the everyday marketer has at their disposal has elevated significantly inside the ultimate decade.

An in-house promoting and advertising supervisor or firm’s main duties are distilling sophisticated data and panning for gold. Strong entrepreneurs analyze giant data items and title out the nuggets of information of their reporting.

One of the most effective strategies to cut down on the noise and be concise is to utilize lists and bullets.


So, there you’ve bought it — 10 strategies to tank your data storytelling. By avoiding these main errors and implementing the concepts I’ve shared, you’ll:

  • Simplify the data conveyed.
  • Improve understanding and notion.
  • Ensure credit score rating is given the place it’s due.
  • Build authoritativeness and credibility.
  • Reinforce that you just simply’re the person for the job.

More Resources:


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Image Credits

Screenshots taken by creator, June 2021


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