Stats the way to do it: how to use data in your written content

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Journalists love a good statistic. I certainly did, and there are many ways in which the lessons from journalism can help to improve your content. For me, the use of statistics is a key one of those.

Why are statistics important?

They capture attention

Figures help us understand scale and scope. Why say something is a ‘major investment’ when you can say ‘more than £5m pounds’ or ‘lots of people’ when ‘more than 250,000’ would be more accurate and impressive? Big figures can add drama and importance, especially to the start of your copy when you are trying to convince people to read on.

They back up an important point

Broad brush statements don’t convey confidence. You could say ‘lots of people struggle to get on the housing ladder’, for example, but it’s much better to do some research and get a stat to amplify your point. ‘More than than half of people can’t afford to buy a home before they are 30’ makes the point more powerfully.

They have good PR value

Other writers are always looking for decent stats too. Good stats – especially exclusive ones – give people a reason to give you a link and a mention.

They make your content shareable

Similarly, a good stat can encourage people to share your content (especially on Twitter). The Content Marketing Institute does a good job of making stats and pullout quotes available as ready-made tweets.

They shape visual content

Stats can give designers something to work with when it comes to graphs and infographics.

They showcase your expertise

If you can find and use effective data to back up your argument you’ll be able to show that you’re acting on more than a hunch and sound authoritative.

How to use statistics

There are four key ways to get stats into your content:

  1. Stick them straight in at the start in your intro. Don’t bury a big number or a startling percentage – begin with it.
  2. Make stats the point of your post. A ‘stats bank’ can get you many links from third parties and ‘12 stats that show X’ can be a decent blog premise.
  3. Use them as pullout design features. Whether it’s a button (like the Content Marketing Institute) or as static design elements, pullout stats can break up your content nicely.
  4. To form graphs and charts. Using programs such as Infogram, you can input stats and data to illustrate your content with charts and graphs.

Where should you get your stats from?

Use publically available third party data

Use the Government and Office for National Statistics for official data or trusted sources such as Which?, the Federation of Small Business or Nationwide – all of which regularly issue useful statistical announcements.

Tap into your own data

While you don’t want to give away commercially sensitive information, you might well be sitting on a wealth of data that you could use (eg, most popular destinations for travel companies or places where most mortgages have been issued for finance companies). Best of all, this will be exclusive to you.

Commission a survey

Another way to obtain exclusive information is to commission your own survey. While you will need to pay a firm to ensure this is carried out correctly, it will allow you to ask key questions and ensure you get relevant and useful results.

Lodge a Freedom of Information request

Freedom of Information requests can help you to obtain the data you need from public bodies. That might range from crime statistics for particular offences or the amount of money spent on health procedures by the NHS. You need to carefully craft your question and make sure you know who to contact and how. It will take 20 working days to get a response but the results can be really rewarding.

A version of this article appeared as a chapter in volume two of The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Your Brand.

Andrew Brookes is deputy content editor at Zazzle Media.

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