I love data. I’m one of those people who could spend hours exploring the depths of a data stream spreadsheet, slicing and dicing numbers and examining charts from every angle. Good data always tells a story, and that glorious moment when the narrative reveals itself is one of the great rewards of my financial writing career.
I wish I could say every blog post, research paper or marketing piece I write follows a seamless process where I’m handed a treasure trove of data and transform it into a compelling story. But the reality is frequently more complex, and often data challenges can present considerable financial writing roadblocks.
One of my biggest data challenges is the simple act of getting the data from my clients. Often I have a particular story in mind, but it can’t take shape until I can actually get my hands on the data. The process would appear to be straightforward: I request specific data and the client delivers it, both with the common interest of producing good quality content. But I’ve identified three reasons why it’s not so simple.
I get it—running data can be a tedious process. This is particularly true for someone in a more senior role, who feels time could be better spent on less mundane-seeming tasks. Thus data-pulling becomes a low priority and getting data can take weeks of waiting, sending polite reminders and more waiting.
As a direct result of Reason #1, data extraction is often assigned to someone lower on the corporate totem pole. I’ve often had extensive back-and-forths with baffled entry-level analysts who are just getting ramped up on the art of data-pulling. And while I’m happy to do my part in developing my clients’ junior staff, it can come at the expense of timely, high quality content.
This is perhaps the issue I run into the most. I can’t begin to tally how many times I haven’t been able to get the data I need simply because the client’s data system can’t accommodate the request. Now this isn’t to be confused with the data not existing—the numbers I need are housed somewhere within the client’s data infrastructure, they just can’t be easily extracted in the desired form.
One of my clients has a beautifully designed website where I can pull in-depth data on all their financial products to my numbers-geek heart’s desire. An interface such as this where data is easily organized, accessed and extracted can effectively make all of the above challenges moot.
And with all the data I need at my fingertips, I’m able to examine different stories and angles until I reach that celebrated moment when a powerful narrative comes together. Not only does this make for some killer financial content, but it also saves everyone a lot of time and resources.