The Devil is in the Data: Using infographics to establish business authority

9 November 2020 | 5 min read | News
George Hartrey

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“Data is the new crude oil” – yada yada yada. We’ve heard it time and time again, and while the viability and realism of that quote is questioned and quarrelled about, its sentiment rings true.

But there may be a more accurate comparison to be made in data being more of a language – it’s something we can learn to understand, and something that can be applied. The crude oil comparison speaks to its value and financial worth, but not to its potential and power.

The quantity of data that we now procure is what can make it difficult to understand. It’s why Big Data professionals command an annual salary in the region of £65,000 – it is their interpretation that enables businesses to make informed, accurate decisions and turn the information into income. Facebook is the prime example – a multi-billion-dollar business built in a bedroom.

Scale back, however, and data has an equally important role in the world of the consumer. It helps readers understand news stories, informs purchasing decisions, and impacts our health and habits. There are plenty of examples of data’s impact being automated – a Netflix recommendation, for example – but the former list requires the reader, buyer or user to understand the data at hand.

Simplifying the States

The Guardians map of the 2020 US Presidential Election votes

Take the map above. I’m sure you’ve seen it, or some incarnation of it, more than a couple of times in recent weeks. At its base level, it’s thousands of locations each with a quantitative value attached to it. I could hand you a spreadsheet displaying the same information and at first glance you’d probably assume the document had malfunctioned in some way. Put some thought and consideration – and, in this instance, some interactivity – into its presentation though, and suddenly it’s a vital tool that allows readers to easily and efficiently get their heads around the numbers. What looks like an awfully red map of America soon becomes much bluer when you delve into each state and county’s voting numbers.

Facebook and the most important US election in recent history aside, data is just as important to you and your business as it is to any of the world’s biggest companies and causes. It establishes an air of expertise that proves to your colleagues, clients and customers that you are an authority figure. Once you’ve acquired the data, whether through primary or secondary research, it then depends on how digestible it is to your audience.

The best of the best

For the perfect infographic example, look no further than Raconteur. In their special reports, published on an increasingly regular schedule with seven slated for November and eight in the following month, they feature a large-scale infographic delving into a wealth of secondary research from the likes of KPMG, McKinsey, leading healthcare bodies and others. No interviews, no surveys, no ‘new’ information – it’s simply being presented in a way that, for the reader, is both enjoyable and understandable.

It’s largely thanks to the easily digestible nature of Raconteur’s reports that they are so impactful. When you download their publishing schedule, you’re presented with three telling stats – nearly half of their readers will pass a report on to someone else, the average read time is 27 minutes and just short of two-thirds of their readers are in management positions. They’re speaking to decision makers for a considerable amount of time, and they’re passing it on to, probably, other decision makers.

Data DIY

Yes, Raconteur has The Times’ team behind it which adds considerable credibility, but following suit isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. With a little bit of desk research, you can acquire the information that decision makers in your field need to know, and the data that will inform their choices. Your business can be the one that provides that to them in an efficient, easy-to-read manner, sent out in a newsletter, an email or social campaign, or otherwise.

Do so on a regular basis, and you’ll soon build up the authority that we talked about earlier. Your readers – and potential clients – will come to dote on the data you send out because it’s easier for them to interpret it from your infographic than it is to go and find it themselves. Then, as shown by Raconteur’s stats, they pass it on to one of their peers and the ball starts rolling.

We’re not saying you can take down The Times and become the example everyone talks about when they think of infographics – although if that’s what you’re thinking, we admire the ambition. What we are saying, however, is apply the same thinking to your own industry, your own field of expertise. With a bit of application, endeavour and an eye for detail, you’ll soon find yourself being referenced by the key decision makers at the businesses you want to work with. It won’t be long until they pick up the phone.

If you’re interested in learning more about how your business can acquire and apply data to make eye-catching infographics and social assets, our studio team will be more than happy to chat you through the process. Get in touch.