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Communicating Stories

  1. 1. Communicating Stories Ray Poynter 17 March 2022
  2. 2. Sponsors Communication
  3. 3. Finding and Communicating the Story in the Data Ray Poynter To be published mid-to-late 2022
  4. 4. Agenda 1. Storyfinding Framework 2. Understanding the Do! 3. Context is key 4. Why stories? 5. Think, Feel, Do! 6. Practice and Rehearse 7. The follow up 8. Q & A
  5. 5. The Framework 1. Define the Problem 2. Assess the Wider Context 3. Find the Big Picture 4. Extract the Key Findings 5. Determine the Message 6. Create the Story 7. Communicate the Story 8. Follow Up
  6. 6. There should always be a Do! •Launch the product •Choose option A •Address customer dissatisfaction with check-in •Do more research •Cancel the project •Keep doing exactly what you are doing …
  7. 7. Context is King The story has to tell the client what needs to be known, in order to do what needs to be done, in ways that the client is able to believe and able to interpret Factors • What is known, what is believed, and what was predicted? • How important are the results perceived to be? (Financial accounts are super important, so they can be boring, tabular, with no articulated story) • How complex is the message? • What do people need to understand? What do they need to remember? What can they look up later? • Is it Good News or Bad News? • What format is the communication (e.g. presentation, report, email etc) • What ‘rules’ does the client have?
  8. 8. Good News versus Bad News If the message is straightforward, likely to be understood, likely to be believed, and likely to be acted on – the story can be simple We test six ads, the preferred ad is a clear winner, the reason is clear, and there are no caveats (Good News) – the reporting is straightforward If the message is Bad News, the creation and communication of the story is more critical (and difficult) We test an idea that has been our client’s pet project for two years. The results show it is a terrible idea, irredeemable, and should be abandoned. We have to change the client’s mind in the face of reluctance to believe the evidence and logic
  9. 9. Good News versus Bad News If the message is straightforward, likely to be understood, likely to be believed, and likely to be acted on – the story can be simple We test six ads, the preferred ad is a clear winner, the reason is clear, and there are no caveats (Good News) – the reporting is straightforward If the message is Bad News, the creation and communication of the story is more critical (and difficult) We test an idea that has been our client’s pet project for two years. The results show it is a terrible idea, irredeemable, and should be abandoned. We have to change the client’s mind in the face of reluctance to believe the evidence and logic
  10. 10. Why Stories? They help deliver the Do! Easier to understand Easier to be engaged with Easier to remember More likely to change minds
  11. 11. For Example
  12. 12. Example – USA Movie Popcorn Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). In 1994 it revealed that Medium bag popcorn = 37 grams saturated fat. USDA (United States Department for Agriculture). Recommended maximum = 20 grams. 0 19 38 Grams Fat 37 20 USDA Max Popcorn
  13. 13. Creating Emotion = 37 grams + + 37 grams We will visit this example again later
  14. 14. Answering the business question The Business Question It is 10am and I am in my office in the centre of Nottingham. At 3pm I have a meeting at the British Library in London. How should I get there?
  15. 15. Less is More Remove anything that is not David
  16. 16. Answering the business question The Business Question It is 10am and I am in my office in the centre of Nottingham. At 3pm I have a meeting at the British Library in London. How should I get there? The Answer (two choices A or B) A) The timetable, which does contain the information you need, somewhere. 
 B) Walk to Nottingham station (10 minutes), catch the 12:45 train to London (which is a direct train), it arrives at 2:25. The British Library is across the road from the station, approx. 5 minutes away.
  17. 17. When is the timetable the right answer?
  18. 18. The difference between 
 means and ends Means 
 Engagement Storytelling Visualisation End Action We should make presentations and reports more engaging. But the reason we do it is to achieve real results.
  19. 19. Do! Think Feel Combine Think (the facts) with Feel (the emotional message), 
 to create the Do! (the actions we want to happen).
  20. 20. Finding the Do! Business 
 Question Business 
 Context Your data and analysis
  21. 21. Finding the Do! Business 
 Question Business 
 Context Your data and analysis Do!
  22. 22. Changing Behaviour is Hard From Behavioural Economics, we know changing behaviour is hard. The ‘facts’ do not often change behaviour.
  23. 23. Changing Behaviour Inform the rider 
 (Think) Motivate the elephant 
 (Feel) Shape the path 
 (Do!)
  24. 24. The Think Your data and analysis
  25. 25. The Think Business 
 Question
  26. 26. The Think Business 
 Question Business 
 Context
  27. 27. The Think Business 
 Question Business 
 Context Your data and analysis
  28. 28. The Think Business 
 Question Business 
 Context Your data and analysis Think 
 ->Do!
  29. 29. The Do! Defined by the Think Do! Feel Think
  30. 30. The Do! Created by the Feel Do! Feel Think
  31. 31. Think, 
 Feel, 
 Do Think • The facts are still important, they are the platform that everything else is built on. Feel • People rarely change their beliefs or behaviour because of the facts – change happens at the emotional level. Do • Every story should be aimed at creating an outcome, an action that the teller wants the recipient to do.
  32. 32. Example – USA Movie Popcorn Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). In 1994 it revealed that Medium bag popcorn = 37 grams saturated fat. USDA (United States Department for Agriculture). Recommended maximum = 20 grams. 0 19 38 Grams Fat 37 20 USDA Max Popcorn
  33. 33. Creating Emotion = 37 grams + + 37 grams
  34. 34. Movie Popcorn 
 
 Think, 
 Feel, 
 Do Think, the ‘facts’: • Popcorn has saturated fat, saturated fat is not good, there are limits Feel • 3 junk meals in one day is dumb/ gross Do • When you are about to buy popcorn, think about all that fat, feel a bit sick/scared, buy something else
  35. 35. Movie Popcorn Data About double your daily fat allowance Visual Story A day’s worth of unhealthy food Robust Simplification
  36. 36. Movie Popcorn 
 What was left out? • Other things in the popcorn, e.g. salt & sugar • Large bag of popcorn • Other foods eaten in movie theatres • Other comparators, e.g. normal daily meal
  37. 37. Separating the Signal 
 from the Noise Signal 
 Anything that answers the business question or helps us communicate the answer Noise 
 Anything that is not signal
  38. 38. Signal & Noise 
 Air Traffic Controller Signal Height Speed Heading Noise Airline Number on board Origin
  39. 39. Signal & Noise 
 Immigration Manager Noise Height Speed Heading Signal Airline Number on board Origin
  40. 40. Storytelling Devices
  41. 41. Narrative Flow • The narrative flow is like a stream that moves from source to destination – and the key word is flow • A beginning, middle, and end • The flow should be linear • The direction of the presentation should make sense – at all stages • Use storytelling devices (humour, personal anecdotes, interaction etc) to enhance the flow
  42. 42. What are the key elements? 1. Link to the project objectives 2. ‘Need to know’ not ‘nice to know’ 3. Supported by patterns or themes in the data • Not just a single data point 4. Clear findings • Try to ensure you are talking about large groups of people – ideally majorities For example: • If men are slightly more interested • If young people are slightly more interested • If people in Mumbai are slightly more interested • Check Young, Men in Mumbai – that may be the key message
  43. 43. The Lead Nora Ephron When Harry Met Sally Sleepless in Seattle 1st Day in Journalism School 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where & Why?) Asked to write the Lead for the school newspaper “The entire school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California Governor Edmund Brown.” All the students wrote about the 5Ws – good, but not right. The Lead? No school next Thursday!
  44. 44. Useful Advice Not Precision
  45. 45. The Flow of The Debrief In 99% of cases, do not present the results in the sequence you collected them Not in questionnaire order Find a flow that helps tell the story Ranked by importance, or difference, or impact, or …
  46. 46. Do Not (Normally) use the Questionnaire Sequence Deaths and Cases Per Million of Popula ti on (un ti l 27 September 2020) Cases Per Million 0 7500 15000 22500 30000 Deaths Per Million 0 175 350 525 700 Brazil France India Japan South Africa UK World Deaths / 1Million Case / 1Million Sorted by alphabet https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ - downloaded 27 September 2020
  47. 47. Sort the data by something meaningful Deaths and Cases Per Million of Popula ti on (un ti l 27 September 2020) Cases Per Million 0 7500 15000 22500 30000 Deaths Per Million 0 175 350 525 700 Brazil USA UK Italy Sweden France South Africa Russia World Germany India Japan China Deaths / 1Million Case / 1Million Sorted by declining number of deaths per million https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ - downloaded 27 September 2020
  48. 48. Typical Structure The Lead / Elevator Pitch Executive Summary Three themes T1, T2, T3 Theme 1 Theme 2 Theme 3 Evidence 1a, 1b, 1c Evidence 2a, 2b, 2c Evidence 3a, 3b, 3c Close with the Do! Treasure Chest HT, Mike Sherman
  49. 49. Good and Bad News There four typical stories • Good news • Good news with caveats • Bad news with some options • Bad news Storytelling for these four cases is different Good news and bad news is defined by what the client wanted AND what the research finds
  50. 50. Bad News 5 stages of grief • Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance One presentation/report rarely tackles all the stages of bad news ‘Facts’ are rarely enough to persuade • Emotions are the key – a customer video can be more powerful than any amount of analysis Go back to a point where the expectations match the findings and build from there
  51. 51. Use Analogies • Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process. • Pitching the film: Alien ‘like Jaws in space’ • Pitching YouTube: ‘Flickr for videos’ • ‘AI and big data is like high school sex, everybody is talking about it, but nobody is actually doing it’
  52. 52. Take one thing away from the ecosystem and the whole system collapses.
  53. 53. Memes
  54. 54. Tip – Collect Examples Collect your personal set of examples to help turn 
 ‘Think’ into ‘Feel’ to create ‘Do!’
  55. 55. Confusing messages
  56. 56. Practice & Rehearse
  57. 57. The follow up • Why? • How? • When? • The nice to know stuff • Dealing with continuous projects
  58. 58. TLDR? What is the Do? What blockers might stop the Do? The story delivers the Do, & avoids the blockers, by utilising ‘feel’ Follow up
  59. 59. Questions?

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