Why Data Visualization is the New Press Release

In the world of digital marketing and digital PR, 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? Data analysis and visualization (or infographics) can be much more effective when you approach the graphic as a means to an end, rather than an end itself.

How to get backlinks with infographics

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 email pitches, informative data analysis, and data visualizations to promote content.

Why use infographics to convey information to the media? And What type of information is best suited for data visualizations not in the text?

Data visualizations, or infographics, are specifically 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 eye-catching and easy to read.

In this article, we’ll outline how data visualizations have grown in popularity at news publications, why you are more likely to get attention from journalists if you use data visualizations, and the best tools to create them.

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

Time is a luxury most journalists don’t have.

Data visualizations give reporters a much-needed break from text-heavy press releases in their already inundated inboxes, while also providing them with easy-to-read and insightful narratives. They can even use the graphics provided to easily convey information to their audiences.

Journalists themselves even acknowledge the benefits of using data visualizations. An analysis by Brown University found the modern use of data visualization in journalism likely began in 2008 and it’s exploded since.

Reporters and news organizations use data visualizations to show political predictions, evaluate what NFL teams will make it to the Super Bowl, and highlight areas on the map devastated by repeat forest fires.

Journalists are using data visualizations for the same reasons we would use them in a pitch. They are eye-catching, boil down complex topics, and allow the reader to interact with the data in a way that helps them better understand the results.

So, why use data visualizations to convey information? In short, infographics save journalists time. When we are able to quickly pique a reporter’s interest, we’re more likely to see that content get shared.

crowded email inbox

How to Visualize Data for Storytelling

Data visualization can come in all different forms: interactive maps, mixed media narratives, and bar charts… but, what does a good data visualization look like? How do we make sure our data stands out among the crowd? How do you create an effective data visualization? And how do you get backlinks with data visualization and infographics?

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

The title, or headline, of your graphic is the doorway to your data story. It 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, which increases the piece’s chance of being discovered by a journalist organically. Some of our strongest campaigns continue to earn links years later because they perform strongly in search. 

#2. Effective design elements

Our experience securing media coverage taught us that, oftentimes, journalists pay attention to only one or two leading data points to tell their story. Data visualizations are an effective way to establish a visual hierarchy between headline-worthy data and supplemental information, making text-heavy press releases irrelevant and a press release or pitch with graphic design elements more appealing.

There are three main types of infographics that we’ve found perform well for digital PR campaigns: maps, mixed media, and lists. 

Map Data Visualization Content

Maps are among the clearest ways to articulate local data. Instead of burying information about each unique community in text, maps present information in an extremely easy-to-read manner that allows the reader to simultaneously witness national trends and contextualize a locality’s trends accordingly.

Map of United States illustrating best cities to start a brewery

Consider this graphic on the left. It takes only a few seconds to recognize that this infographic shows us the best cities to start a brewery.

On the right, the interactive map uses visual cues, such as size and opacity, to show which media markets shared the most content. While this image on its own doesn’t convey the subject, we instinctively understand that the East Coast, Texas, and Pacific Northwest are national leaders.

The interactive map graphic on the right uses visual cues, in this case, different sizes 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.

Instead of using words and numbers, these maps tell a visualized story and point to trends nationwide.

We have used maps for a wide variety of successful campaigns! Our report on the biggest tax procrastinators in the nation earned our client over 170 links. We also created a map-based content piece on the most popular Super Bowl Snacks in each state that earned our client more than 150 links. 

Map examples

You can see why these campaigns performed well! The data visualization quickly tells the story, allowing the journalist to look at what results relate to their region, and decide whether it’s newsworthy for them to cover it.

Mixed Media/Narrative

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

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

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 holiday package theft. The black color block makes the research’s leading statistic stand out: 36% of Americans have been victimized by package theft.

Following that initial highlighted statistic, two related data points are emphasized with the nearby photo block. While the third most prominent section, the bar chart, dives even deeper in the regularity of package theft.

Because this is a newsworthy topic and the graphics illustrate our statistics clearly and concisely, this report earned our client over 120 links.

Chart, Graphs & Lists

Charts, graphs, and lists are incredibly effective at translating numeric data, and large swaths of small data into easily digestible visuals.

Readers can get lost in paragraphs, especially with lots of numbers. Bullet points can’t effectively point to trends that tell a larger story.

Graphics, on the other hand, use colors, lines and other design elements to tie together a wide-variety of data points and give readers a visual break.

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 further the narrative proudly reside as supplemental information in a paragraph. By prioritizing data in the graphic that can inspire a news headline, you can place the rest of the data in paragraphs. 

This doesn’t diminish the value of that 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.

Best Tools for Creating Infographics & Data Visualizations

Now that you know all of the benefits of using data visualizations and data visualizations to get attention from journalists, you’re probably wondering: “what are the best tools to create a data visualization?”. At Digital Third Coast, we use a team of graphic designers. However, if you’re looking to make some data visualizations yourself, here are some helpful starting points:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud Express
    • Pro: easy to use, over 10,000 templates to choose from, great for digital PR
    • Con: best templates come at a cost
  • Canva
    • Pro: useful for a wide variety of platforms, from brochures to presentations
    • Con: can only be used online
  • Venngage
    • Pro: user-friendly, more than 7,500 templates to pick from
    • Con: not as many fonts to choose from 
  • Snappa
    • Pro: wide-variety of images, can upload the company logo
    • Con: browser-based
  • Piktochart
    • Pro: create a custom data visualization in under 30 minutes without prior design skills
    • Con: can only create 5 visuals on free account

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: 

The majority of the time, the graphic served its purpose by giving journalists visual highlights on the most important information, but rarely do the graphics themselves get shared.

More often than not, when the graphic did get shared (27% of all media placements), it tended to be a rankings map.t 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.

All of this begs the question, what is the most widely shared data visualization? 

For the sake of full transparency, here is how our placement rate for graphics (by type) played out. You can see maps are by far the most shared data visualization from our content pieces. That’s largely because maps include other information that may be interesting to the news outlet’s audience.

If the content campaign is about a state’s favorite Super Bowl party snack, local news readers might be curious to find out what the favorites are in neighboring states, the state where they grew up, or where their sister lives! The next most widely shared data visualization are charts, graphs, and rankings followed by mixed media narratives.

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 websites 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. However, science and technology outlets as well as travel publications share our graphics roughly 1 out of 3 times. 

percentage of graphics shared by different content verticals.

This evidence reaffirms our belief that the graphic is better used to pitch journalists and sell them on the story, rather than as a standalone. We’re not saying that traditional press releases are irrelevant, but infographics can go a long way when it comes to earning media coverage and backlinks.

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