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Digital storytelling means building the story around data

The value of digital storytelling in pharma lies in its ability to convert facts and figures into compelling content for patients and HCPs.

As with most other industries, the pharma industry is at present enjoying a great wealth of readily-available information – and all the technology and gadgetry to accompany it. Without a doubt, the digital age is in full swing. Yet just as some say youth is wasted on the young, this great wealth is often wasted on those who don’t know how to use it. Too often, data is used as merely ‘backup’ to a presentation or detail aid; as a fancy gimmick even, to lend authority in some way. To utilise data to the full, we must invest in digital storytelling

If you’ve ever been bored or confused by data, it’s probably because it wasn’t presented in the right way – and misunderstood by those who have presented it. Digital storytelling, on the other hand, makes data the centre of the message and the story itself. If data has any role in promoting products and services, it must be a central one. 

Bridging the data vs. presentation gap
According to LinkedIn, data analysts are among the top four most-recruited experts in the world today. ‘Knowing the numbers’ is big business, and people in all industries are demanding more digital evidence – simply because there’s more available. 

The average data analyst, however, has a great head for numbers but, sadly, often lacks the talent to communicate what the figures actually mean to the rest of us. Therefore, who needs to evolve? Do data analysts need to become better communicators, or do pharma marketers need to become better analysts? 

The best answer is probably ‘a combination of both’, but the saying grab the bull by the horns is appropriate here. Without wanting to disregard the effort and skill needed to become a successful analyst, pharma professionals can themselves take great steps to understand digital evidence. After all, of all the industries it stands to reason that pharma is one that relies more heavily on facts and figures. 

Data, visuals and narrative
So far we’ve discussed how data and narrative (i.e. what the presenter chooses to say) can merge to tell a story. Effective digital storytelling, however, also needs a visual element to stimulate attention – and hold it. 

As regards data, clinical studies (for example) can be used to outline the benefits of a product or service, and can be solid evidence that the product ‘works’. Yet the story of the product is much more than that; it begins with the patient, and as such must be as much about the problem as it is the solution.  

There should be data regarding statistics about how and why particular conditions are contracted, who they affect and so-on, and this data should lead the narrative rather than be an addition to it. The solution (the product) then comes in to save the day at the end, and its introduction should be as a direct response to the problem outlined in the data. The graphs or charts that outline the benefits should follow last of all, rather than be the opening gambit of the promotion.

Visuals (be they infographics, dashboards or whatever else) are only effective if the data and narratives do their jobs first. When they are eye-catching enough, however, they have the potential to leave a lasting impression on whoever has seen them. All good stories have pictures, simply because an image is easier to remember. And once the image is remembered, people find it much easier to recall the rest of the narrative at a later time. 

For pharma, digital storytelling is essential for both educating audiences and, due to the nature of the products discussed, influencing a call to action in the story’s listeners and viewers. If the wealth of data is to be used to its maximum potential, it has to become as central to this story as this narrative itself – and certainly not an ‘add-on’ to fill time. 

This blog was first published here:

26th May 2017



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