Why Your Infographic Needs Data-Driven Writing to Deliver Results

Katie Burkhart is the founder of KBurkhart & Co. and serves as the lead brand strategist and designer. You can follow Katie on Twitter @KBurkhartCo and read her posts on the KBurkhart & Co blog.

Content comes in many shapes and sizes these days. One of the forms that continues to grow in popularity is the infographic, due in part to its bite-sized, eye-catching nature. But it’s still content and should be treated like any other form of content: strategically, and with purpose.

While the end product is predominantly visual, you must start with some amount of written content. That content is often produced separately and then sent to a designer who is responsible for creating the infographic.

How do you write that content to get the best results?

To start, know what you mean when you say “infographic” to your designer. In our world of marketing buzzwords, it’s easy to have two separate conversations even though you’re using the same words and standing in the same room (or looking at the same email, however you prefer).

An infographic is literally an information graphic. It’s a visual, be it a chart, graph or counter that gets accompanied by minimal text. Its goals include: simplifying the presentation of large amounts of data, showing patterns and relationships, and monitoring changes over time. This is why the term “data visualization” is often used in the same conversation.

Without that clarity, it’s hard to move forward productively because the expectations of the outcome are often different.  Secondly, the definition states outright the best thing you could do when writing the content: Give your designer data.

For an infographic to turn out in its iconic, counting ticker, colored bar graph style, you should be going to your designer with data, preferably quantitative data, or data that deals with numbers. Doing so gives your designer the nuts and bolts they need to create what we all know as an infographic. Some examples of quantitative data include:

  1. Stats (preferably related to your brand, such as how many scholarships you gave out)

  2. Percentages

  3. Number of Items

  4. Averages (in numbers, such as an average weight or height)

Without the numbers, the infographic loses what makes it distinct. No, there’s nothing wrong with qualitative data, such as interviews, articles or reports. They’re all great content, but they’re other forms of content and would be best represented in a different format. Trying to squeeze them into a brightly colored graphic suit isn’t doing justice to your content or your audience.

The next step you can take is to make sure you put your data in context. 60% of people opened your email. 65% of scholarship needs were met. 7 kids graduated. These are entirely random stats because there is no context. Context, in terms of data, comes by comparing one figure to another to establish a relationship, which ultimately allows you to justify why all the figures are relevant in the first place.

Of the 300 people on our email list, 60% opened our monthly emails, which was up by 52% from last year: Now that means something.

The last thing you can do to produce a better infographic is to have a story in mind. Yes, even numbers need to weave together with a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps it’s an overcoming challenges story, where the data from last year leads off, and then the data from this year goes from least impressive to most impressive. Or, maybe it’s an annual report and it follows along a timeline because the data and points build upon each other as the months go by.

Writing your infographic content with an underlying story will help your designer to prioritize specific pieces visually. It will also give key guidance on how to arrange the entire infographic so your audience can more easily connect the dots, and thus be more engaged with the content from start to finish. Whatever story you choose, it should help to support the data you have selected and feel authentic to your brand.

It’s more likely that your infographic will look like an infographic if you approach it as an information graphic. By strategically driving your writing with data, and giving purpose to that data with context and story, you will get a better, bite-sized piece of content primed to deliver results.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Unsplash.