What Is Data Journalism and How Can B2B Marketers Use It?
Content marketers are under pressure to tell new stories that establish their company as an industry thought leader and that stand out from the crowd. But it sometimes feels impossible to tell a marketing story that is original, credible, interesting and good for visibility and SEO. For me, data is often the missing link that allows me to incorporate every important aspect in one piece of content.
And yet, I don’t see very many B2B marketers tapping into publicly available data or creating their own — which is ironic, given how data-obsessed B2B-ers are! But good news: Finding ways to incorporate data journalism into your marketing strategy isn’t that difficult, and can take a few different forms.
If you’re looking for new ways to tell compelling stories that other people want to hear, this article can help you determine why a quantitative approach might benefit your company.
What Is Data Journalism and Why Should I Use It?
Data journalism is a quantitative approach to storytelling that employs publicly available, curated or original data as its focal point. By analyzing data, marketers can extract meaningful narratives that can become great visuals — like videos and infographics — or pitches to publications.
For people working in B2B fields, using data in marketing often serves the purpose of building industry intelligence and establishing your company as a credible source for information. Speaking of data, there is tons of information around why using data is so beneficial to marketers, including:
- Competitive edge. If you learn something new about your competitors or customers, you can use this information to edge out other companies and win a new client. For example, say I’m a CMO at a telecommunications company in Chicago hoping to sell my phone systems to city departments. I can request data from the city on everything from the age of phone equipment in any department to how much using it costs. After collecting this data, I can speak to the city about how it would benefit from switching to our service.
- Authority and thought leadership. Whether you’re giving your audience original research or synthesizing existing data in a new and creative way, you can quickly become a credible information source to journalists, industry leaders and prospects. If you’re hitting topics that you know users will care about, and backing them up quantitatively, you’ll build trust and increase the likelihood of a conversion down the road.
- More traffic and engagement. Much of the content we produce doesn’t actually give users value, and doesn’t get the traffic we hope for. But chances are, if you write something that can’t be found anywhere else, especially if it includes a visualization of some sort, you’re going to generate lots of buzz. This can mean shares and more followers on social media, backlinks from other websites and articles written about your data. And we all know the benefits of more traffic and engagement!
- Good for SEO. Data also can benefit your SEO strategy. Search engines like long content, especially when it’s in list form, which data studies often are. Second, links from reputable sites can help increase your position on search. Using data to create powerful visuals like infographics also ensures people remember and return to your research.
How Do I Use It?
There are two main strategies behind data journalism: Original and third-party data. With either method, you’ll be able to choose among topics that broadly relate to your brand (like an AI tech company analyzing a TV show or movie), or something more niche and industry specific (like a Martech company writing about Amazon). The best companies will use a combination of both.
Here are a few ways that Walker Sands has effectively used original or third-party data in a B2B space.
We often conduct field research for clients in the form of surveys, experiments and interviews, which we then turn into data studies. Through this data-driven approach, our clients have seen tangible results, including reports that gather more than 3,000 downloads, growing their social media mentions by 350 percent and gathering more than $1 million in new business.
One of my favorite data studies we’ve produced is a social experiment for CompTIA, an IT and cybersecurity company, in which we randomly distributed 200 USB devices across four cities. We found that 17 percent of people who found these devices plugged them into their computer. The study received millions of impressions and more than 100 media placements.
We also conducted an anonymous survey and study with Intercall, the world’s largest conference provider, to learn what telecommuters are really doing on conference calls. Some of the results were hilarious, if slightly disturbing (example: 47 percent of respondents had participated in a call from the bathroom). We designed a beautiful graphic to demonstrate some of our findings, which helped Intercall receive placements in more than 100 top tier publications.
There is tons of government data publicly available through open-source government databases that has never been requested by civilians. Public records include statistics about schools, healthcare, crime, emails of public officials — and on and on. If you’re curious about a topic but are struggling to find sufficient information, you can always file a FOIA request for data to a government agency. You might submit a FOIA with a clear end goal in mind, or just because you’re curious to see what trends data might illuminate. If you find readily available data that is useful, but hasn’t been explored (on data-dump websites for information that already has been released via FOIA, for example), you can synthesize it a new way.
It makes sense that one of my favorite Walker Sands-fueled uses of third-party data was with our client whose platform is centered on data storytelling, LiveStories. Our LiveStories project broke down public data on the gender pay gap in major U.S. cities to contextualize findings in individual markets. The findings allowed LiveStories to comment on the cities most likely to win the bid for Amazon’s next HQ.
The proof is in the pudding: Data is important and valuable to a broad group of stakeholders. Producing a data analysis project for the first time can be time-intensive. If you’re looking for ways to boost your content marketing strategy but aren’t sure you have the time, get in touch with us today.