Your online-communications program needs a data scientist and data-visualization expert. Really.
Whenever I get talking about how the grotesque and growing inequality in America is warping and corrupting our politics — which is often — I usually bring up these brilliant Mother Jones charts . There are 11 in all; here are two examples:
WINNERS TAKE ALL
The superrich have grabbed the bulk of the past three decades’ gains.
OUT OF BALANCE
A Harvard business prof and a behavioral economist recently asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth is distributed in the United States. Most thought that it’s more balanced than it actually is. Asked to choose their ideal distribution of wealth, 92% picked one that was even more equitable.
I like them because they lay out the whole story in a way that suits the attention spans of our age — they make the overall shape of a complicated story apprehendable in seconds, with much greater economy than words can usually manage. (One notable exception: title of Joe Stiglitz’s recent Vanity Fair piece, Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%. Ain’t that a great turn of phrase?)
Point is, if you want your message amplified by crowds of people, if you want your content to go viral, you have to accept the following: You have less than 5 seconds to induce your users to stay and really read/watch what you have to say. Fail to make a strong enough impression, and they’re on to the next click.
Which is why, as advocacy groups close out the fiscal year and hash out next year’s budgets, any decisionmaker charged with persuading web audiences to get things done on the organization’s behalf ought to consider this proposition: If you don’t already have them, your next two critical hires should be Data Scientist and Data Visualization / Digital Illustration Ninja. Sometimes these skillsets can be found in a single person, but in my opinion this function is so critical to effective online storytelling for general audiences that I’d start with the assumption that you’ll be building a team, not just integrating one individual into your existing org chart.
Whether you’re, say, an advocacy organization or think tank or candidate for elective office, you’ve got to explain policy — a tall order, given the itchy trigger fingers of web users. You may already be generating reams of content explaining your programmatic work and policy recommendations. But if nobody’s reading it….