By: James Harris, Implementation Consultant
Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Stories move people. They inform the listener and inspire action. A story that incorporates key metrics and data can help convey a persuasive and effective message that is difficult to ignore.
Data-rich storytelling can help you to bridge gaps and move your audience past logic to emotion. But how exactly do you take your reports and raw data and turn it into a call to action? How do you take an occupancy report, for example, and transform it into a gameplan that will drive leases? How does the storytelling strategy translate for your property?
Well, just like a good story, you start at the beginning:
Identify your Audience. Your company likely has multiple “audiences”—your current residents, prospects, corporate executives, potential investors, etc. A great first step in storytelling is identifying those audiences and learning about their unique personas. What are their motivations and goals? Does the group share specific habits, demographics or characteristics? Which variables and metrics do they care about most?
Begin outlining the information in a personas diagram. You will find that some of the information that needs to be conveyed is similar for some audiences and very different for others. For example, a potential investor and corporate team members are likely interested in your property’s NOI and average occupancy, however, that information would hold little interest with a prospective resident who is more interested in the neighborhood demographic, community amenities, and local crime rates. Use these personas to start honing the key messages you want to convey to each audience
Examine Your Reports. Once you have determined your key messages, you can start dissecting your data to find which points will resonate most with your audience. Look at occupancy rates, profitability projections, and pricing trends to identify key factors reflecting the health of your property. Most property management systems provide basic reports for these metrics and more.
Keep in mind, the insights you glean from your data may seem obvious to you, but may not be for your audience. Metrics are more memorable when delivered within a narrative – you may need to explain how to get from point A to point B. For example, you might find that a jump in occupancy coincides with the introduction of a new amenity. Maybe rent prices have taken a recent hit and – oh look – there’s new construction undercutting rates in the area. Draw those lines clearly for your audience. Use your insights to begin forming the story.
Leverage the Data. So let’s say you are courting potential investors, and your occupancy and profitability have been on a consistent rise the past few years. That’s definitely a story you can highlight with a combination of occupancy and financial reports. But the real art comes in crafting a story around relatable — even emotional — cues: the marketing tactics that energized the community or recent resident experiences that illustrate your success on a human level. Site staff can be great resources to provide you with the kind of anecdotes that will enhance your story.
This applies double if you find yourself in a position of delivering bad news. If your story is a grim one, leverage your data resources to identify actionable items you can use to turn the situation into a positive. Has the downward trend occurred elsewhere? What methods have proven effective in the past? Which strategies didn’t work? Historical marketing data and resident demographic reports can provide you with valuable context that can help you repeat successes and handily avoid pitfalls.
Make the Change. If you’re thinking that this all sounds great, but seems to fall more into the fairy-tale genre than non-fiction, the villain may in fact be your PM software. If you can’t quickly pull the reports named above and don’t have the information necessary to complete steps 1-3, then it may be time to consider a new PM platform. Got a report or two that are uncommon to the industry and which require an Excel export and vlookup…don’t we all? But don’t let that stand in the way of finding a software system you can trust to keep your best interests at its core; one that will allow you to tell the most effective story.
Like most crafts, data storytelling may feel unnatural at first, but as you stretch out of your comfort zone you’ll see how well it works. Go ahead and give it a try on your next presentation. Like any skill, it gets easier with practice. Remember, those same old dashboards and bar charts may communicate raw data to your audience, but the narrative behind the data is what will speak to their hearts. And you’ll end up with more than an impressive display – you’ll be the one keeping your property at the forefront of an ever-changing industry.