Not Just the Facts: Infuse Life Into Your Data

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Expand your brand’s reach with creatively presented research data.

By Alessia Kirkland

Associations usually present research data in the same old way — a boring report format. A standard report works for the true believers, people who are vested in the mission of your organization and are willing to read through lists of data. However, you need something more inventive, if you want to expand your brand’s reach.

At AM&P’s Annual Meeting session, "Not Just the Facts: How to Use Research Data to Tell Your Brand’s Story,” Jaime Andriopoulos, senior director of strategy at Imagination, and Cyndee Miller, editorial director at Imagination, provided a behind-the-scenes view of the four-step process they used to build a narrative around a workforce survey for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) to engage the entire restaurant industry, not just the true believer.

1. Strategize: Develop the program vision.

The first task was to establish NRAEF’s goals for the project. What was the association hoping to achieve? NRAEF decided it wanted to: (1) Position restaurants as an industry of opportunity, (2) reach out to new audiences across multiple channels, (3) bring a voice and personality to the data, and (4) extend the life of the data.

Next, the team developed a Content Ecosysytem. Everything related to the project lived within a content hub created for the campaign, which included: (1) a research report, for people who wanted all the data/details; (2) a print magazine, for people who preferred pictures with explanations; and (3) an infographic series, for those who preferred the story within the graphics.

They also identified the key players on the project: (1) NRAEF; (2) PR agency, to hire paid bloggers; (3) social media agency, to hire paid celebrity bloggers; (4) content marketing agency; and (5) the National Restaurant Association (NRA), their parent organization.

2. Create: Execute the vision.

Andriopoulos and Miller used a process called "ideation” to create the editorial and design concepts for the magazine and infographics. First, they worked with NRAEF to decide on the tone and voice. They then created Q&As, articles, and profiles to take the place of straight data. For the infographics, they combed through the data for the best stories to tell. Next they established the look with colors, fonts, images, pie charts, and bar charts. Once everything was in place, they made sure to get it right with multiple rounds of manuscript review, fact checking, and layout review.

The end result was Advance magazine — bringing research to life with personal stories, instead of conveying it in a traditional/boring data format. Advance was a full-fledged magazine with nameplate, TOC, president’s letter, and most important, a feature well with stories that hit home about a high-growth industry.

3. Distribute: Get it out there.

NRAEF used a combination of paid bloggers and celebrity social sponsors to put out the message. The bloggers and celebrities used their own voice, but wrote NRAEF content. They then used content syndication to drive traffic.

4. Measure: Did this work?

The project was a huge success. Through the creation of a magazine, infographics, content hub, and paid media, Imagination and NRAEF gave life and color to research data that proved restaurants are an industry of opportunity. They received a positive buzz throughout the industry, numerous requests for additional copies, and noted an increase in donor interest.

There were also a few lessons learned/recommendations from NRAEF’s experience:

(1) It’s important to establish an internal approval process and engage potential sponsors early.

(2) You should also plan far ahead to ensure there’s communications support to keep the momentum going and establish a print distribution plan.

At the end of the talk, Andriopoulos and Miller gave the audience one final piece of advice: "Don’t be afraid to blow things up and look at things through a different lens.”

Alessia Kirkland is creative director, Optics & Photonics News, for the Optical Society (OSA) and a member of the AM&P Annual Meeting Committee. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks her for doing such a terrific job capturing the essence of this session for our members who were unable to attend.

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