Looking for stories with a specific kind of appeal is a great way to pare down your options when preparing to craft data stories. Most narratives will vary in strength and appeal. Many are often a mixture.
To help our partners and clients figure out how best to tell their stories, we often suggest they choose from these three basic types of appeal. (Each type has many subcategories, which are useful further on in the process when defining and producing your story.)
Pathos: Appealing to Emotion
A story that readers can emotionally connect to offers the strongest level of potential engagement. To craft a data story with emotional appeal, simply focus on whatever is exciting, encouraging, saddening, anger-inducing, or funny about your figures.
Pathos stories allow your audience to feel invested with minimal time and effort. That said, if you plan to craft data stories using an emotional hook, be prepared to work. You’ll need imagination and an understanding of your readers’ perspective to effectively leverage emotional appeal. It can also be tricky to avoid getting lost in emotional aspects of the story that are not related to your data.
- Encourages sharing on social media and elsewhere
- Easy for audiences to relate to and engage with
- Too much focus on emotional appeal hurts high-level readership and can damage your reputation
- Difficult to make data stand out; frequently misinterpreted or skimmed
- Research shows mothers in their early 30s have the lowest risk of premature births
- A study on orca’s ability to imitate human speech
- Scientists find smoking a single cigarette each day still increases health risks
Logos: Appealing to the Intellect
Stories that appeal to your audience’s senses of reason and logic are the most rewarding — when your readers understand them. Heavily science-based stories generally fit here. If you have a data story that will stimulate readers’ intellects and appeal to them logically, this type of story is a safe bet.
Crafting data stories with intellectual appeal is also incredibly challenging. You will likely need strong support from the structure and design elements of your narrative to facilitate audience comprehension.
- The best way to increase serious circulation and build your reputation
- Readers enjoy the perceived effect of learning something
- Audiences like feeling they belong to an exclusive group of people who know things
- Requires rigorous structure and design support
- Not as easy for readers to engage with as emotional stories
- Experiments show Australian trees “sweat” to survive extreme heat
- Researchers calculate the carbon emissions of a sandwich
Ethos: Appealing to the Sense of Community
Humans have a strong need to feel connected to the community around them. Crafting data stories with an appeal to that sense is by far the easiest way to attract readers. Choose this underused type of story if you want to focus on the people, community, or celebrity appeal of your findings.
Focusing on the community appeal or “human interest” aspect of your data makes this type of story easy to write. But be warned: an appeal to ethos will keep your story’s focus on the people involved. Not on your analysis.
- Encourages sharing within peer groups and similar social circles
- The lightest, least taxing appeal for readers
- Offers confirmation and reflection for the reader or discovery of people different than them
- Requires data that relates specifically to people or communities
- Tends to focus more on the human element of your story rather than your analysis
- Research shows attractive people are more likely to be politically conservative
- New technology helps a voiceless teenager speak
- Astronauts install new parts on the International Space Station
Craft Data Stories with Audience Appeal
Thinking about these different types of appeal can really help you see where your most interesting stories lie. Don’t be afraid to craft data stories that use multiple types of appeal simultaneously. Do, however, ensure your angle of appeal works harmoniously with your narrative type to create a strong, clear story.
Balancing different appeal types can also be an important factor when crafting data stories. You might want to avoid leaning too heavily on the same type of story that’s popular on your topic. Need help crafting data stories for your organization? That’s what we’re here for. Contact Datassist today.