Why Data Visualizations are the New Press Release

Tricia Harte

By Tricia Harte

In the world of digital marketing, many content creators produce infographics with the hopes of building links or earning social shares. Maybe they submit their infographic to an infographic directory, but what does that accomplish? Infographics can be much more effective when you approach the graphic as a means to an end, rather than an end itself.

At Digital Third Coast, we use infographics as part of our link building campaigns. Rather than pitch our clients’ original research with lengthy press releases, we use brief emails and informative data analysis and visualizations to promote content.

Why use infographics to convey information to the media?

Infographics are perfectly designed for storytelling with data. While press releases can pack a lot of information in text-heavy paragraphs, they’re not ideal for quick skims. Data visualizations, on the other hand, are.

Why You Should Use a Data Visualization Instead of a Press Release

In an era where people get their news from feeds and social media, very few take the time to read the fine print. The same is true with journalists and pitches. 

Reporters’ inboxes are inundated with press releases. Even after they sort out the irrelevant, they rarely have time to thoroughly read every email they receive.

crowded email inbox

If nothing stands out, press releases are likely to end up in the virtual trash. How can you make sure your content pitch stands apart from the crowd?

The answer is simple: Get your point across quickly by leveraging the most powerful data in your pitch. Then, lead journalists to a sleek, data visualization that illustrates the full narrative you’re trying to get across.

We’ve found that compelling and high quality research earns linking media placements, not the graphic visualization. So when you focus your energy on making graphics that are easily understood and tell compelling data stories, your link building efforts are more likely to be successful.

How to Visualize Data for Storytelling

How do you create an effective infographic? Well, if you’re creating an infographic to promote content in lieu of a press release, there are three key elements your visualization needs:

Graphic requirements for successful infographic: Clear title or headline, use of design elements to highlight leading data, and use of text to offer supplemental information.

#1. Clear headline & title

When someone sees your visual (typically included in a blog post or other page on your site), there shouldn’t be any confusion about what information leads the narrative.

The title, or headline, of your graphic is the doorway to your data story and should…

  • Visually stand out
  • Be succinct and specific
  • Utilize keywords and phrases
  • Answer user intent

Successful graphic headlines should also carry SEO value. Think about the most powerful statistics or information your content reveals, and then think about how people might go about searching for that information.

Headlines that reflect human search tendencies and keywords can improve the page’s visibility in search. 

#2. Effective design elements

Our experience securing media coverage taught us that, oftentimes, journalists glom onto only one or two leading data points. Data visualizations are an effective way to establish a visual hierarchy between headline-worthy data and supplemental information.

At DTC, we’ve streamlined our visualizations into three main categories of design elements to efficiently tell our content stories: maps, mix media, and lists. 

  • Map – There are several different map types. But just like it sounds, a map is a map of the United States, or region, with clear borders and data for key locations. 
  • Mixed Media/Narrative – We use a mixed media formatting of photos, color blocks, and simple graphics to illustrate clear storylines from the data. 
  • Chart/Graph/List – These graphics are typically used to streamline data analyses that are best presented in a table or linear fashion.

Map Content

Maps data visualization is among the simplest ways to articulate local data. Instead of burying information about each unique community in text, maps present information in an extremely easy-to-synthesize manner.

Map of United States illustrating best cities to start a brewery

Take this map graphic (on the left), for example, it takes only a few seconds to recognize the data story being told. These are the top 10 cities for breweries, here is the exact number of breweries per capita in each one. 

The interactive map graphic on the right uses visual cues, in this case different side and opacity circles, to illustrate which media markets shared the most content in 2019. Instead of using words and numbers, the graphic design elements tell the story of which regions are most prone to media coverage.

Mixed Media/Narrative

Mixed media infographics combine photos, color blocks and data points in a way that visually draw the readers’ eyes to certain key story elements. 

36 percent of people have had a package stolen, 56 percent know someone who has had a package stolen, 31 percent have had a neighbor suffer package theft.

In this graphic (created for a market research client) we explore the topic of annual and holiday package theft. The black color block highlights the research’s leading statistic: 36% of Americans have been victimized by package theft.

The section to the right illustrates less prominent, but still interesting, statistics about package theft. While the third most prominent section, the bar chart, further illustrates the next relevant statistics in the data story.

The visual cues of a mixed media composition guide the reader’s eyes from one section to the next in a deliberate, narrative-advancing manner.

Chart, Graphs & Lists

Charts, graphs and lists are among the simplest forms of graphics used in data visualizations. They’re incredibly effective at translating numeric data, and large swaths of small data into easily comprehended visuals.

If you have a grouping of separate but related statistics you’d like to illustrate, what would be the most effective way to present that information?

Paragraphs can become too long and cumbersome if you’re talking about a large group of data. Bullet points easily separate information, but they come up short if you’re talking about multiple aspects of a piece of data.

Graphics, on the other hand, can utilize colors, lines and other design elements to break up and organize a diversity of information like rankings or lists.

Top 5 cities to invest in airbnb properties: Moreno valley, Virginia Beach, Pasadena, Garden Grove, Fremont.

#3. Supplemental text & paragraphs

Not all your data needs to make the graphic, much of it can proudly reside as supplemental information in a paragraph. By prioritizing data in the graphic that can carry a news headline, you can place the rest of the data in text-heavy paragraphs. 

This doesn’t necessarily diminish the value of the data, but it establishes a clear, visual hierarchy between leading data points and complementary ones. Interested readers can read the text, while those looking to quickly scan can easily skip over it.

Graphics Usually Don’t Get Shared, Content Does

To illustrate how we arrived at the conclusion that graphics are a great promotional tool for content, we analyzed 68 of our own data visualizations. Here’s what we found: 

A majority of the time, the graphic served its purpose and earned media attention, but never actually got shared. When the graphic did get shared (27% of all media placements) it tended to be a map, that accompanied either a rankings or local analysis.

For the sake for full transparency, here is how our placement rate for graphics (by type) played out.

Pie chart illustrating most common graphic types to be shared. 23 percent of mixed media infographics, 40 percent of map graphics, 25 percent of charts and rankings.

Another important thing to note is the domain authority (DA) of the websites that do and don’t share the graphic. On average, we found that websites that shared our data without the graphic had a 22% higher DA than those that shared the graphic.

DA 61 is the average domain authority of digital publications that only share the data, not the graphic.

This finding reinforces our belief that data analyses and visualizations are best used as means of communicating information and pitching content. If more reputable wesbites won’t share your infographic, why invest more resources in creating flashy ones?

Content verticals that do & don’t share graphics

We broke down content topics into categories to determine if certain subjects of infographics are more likely to be shared than others?

When we analyzed our 68 content campaigns, we found that data visualizations about science & technology and travel were the most likely to be shared. Graphics about personal finance and real estate topics are the least likely to be shared.

percentage of graphics shared by different content verticals.

Overall, less than half of the placements we earned for our client’s research-based never published the infographic. Which was fine, our goal has always been to generate backlinks that are reputable, authoritative and relevant.

However, this evidence does make us steadfast in our faith that the graphic is better used to pitch journalists and sell them on the story, rather than as a standalone

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