The future of storytelling is grounded in data

There’s one common thread across markets: The press’s interest in ownable, localized data, says OkCupid’s Michael Kaye.

OkCupid's Michael Kaye.

In college, I convinced myself I wasn’t a “numbers person,” going so far as to switch my major from business to communications and sociology. Fortunately, I fell in love with human social relationships and storytelling, and today my role marries both of those things with, surprise, a whole lot of numbers mixed in. 

Now, nearly 10 years post-grad, I am a true “numbers person.” My passion for building creative narratives has led me to use data on a near daily basis to unlock the power of public relations. Am I a communicator? Yes. Am I a data analyst? Also yes.

As the head of global communications at OkCupid, I take a data-driven approach to marketing and public relation efforts because of the insights we have available from our in-app matching questions that power our algorithm. These in-app questions have been answered almost 500 million times this year, and 9 and a half billion times since our company launched. Over the years, this is what I learned about working with numbers.

Find an ownable angle

Analyzing responses from in-app OkCupid questions uncovered a story I couldn’t wait to  tell: singles around the world are adamant that their match cares about the earth. 

When you are in a crowded market, it’s important to lean into what you can offer key stakeholders that your competitors cannot. For me, that’s leveraging OkCupid’s core product differentiator to inspire and support all our integrated storytelling efforts. 

OkCupid’s in-app questions about climate change and the environment have been answered about 15 million times, with 97% of OkCupid respondents believing climate change is real and 81% of 7 million people on OkCupid being concerned about climate change. No other dating app has access to this level of insights, creating a global narrative completely owned by OkCupid.

Since 2019, there have been more than 400 press mentions of OkCupid’s data on this topic in dozens of countries around the world.

The global success of this press angle inspired marketing content through influencer partnerships and product features aimed to help our users find environmentally-conscious matches.

Humanize your insights

Data alone will not evoke an emotion or drive customers to take your intended action. Brands must humanize the data by presenting insights in a way that is conversational, digestible and shareable. Think about what the data is telling you. The story is the humans behind the data, not the numbers themselves.

Localize and personalize

Over the years managing communications in nearly a dozen markets there has been one common thread: the press’s interest in ownable, localized data. When it comes to media across these regions, they’re increasingly interested in country-by-country comparisons as an important way to contextualize the data on people within their borders. Localized data elevates any marketing campaign or media pitch. 

Tell your story across all marketing channels and levers

The lines between marketing and public relations have blurred in recent years, mainly because these two storytelling functions work best together. Both increase brand awareness and loyalty, which impacts business performance. Brands need to integrate all these tactics if they want to create successful campaigns.  

Although communicators have had to wear many hats over the years and our roles only continue to expand, data storytelling needs to be a collaborative effort. I partner closely with data scientists to uncover rich insights, and work with psychologists and sociologists to understand the why behind these numbers. All these conversations help these data-driven stories come to life. 

Michael Kaye is associate director of global communications at OkCupid. 

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