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Recently, I’ve seen a whole range of articles and blogs discussing the ability of maps to tell powerful stories.
This penguin example that uses locations to progress through interactive chapters is one that really caught my attention.
Of course, here at eSpatial we definitely agree that maps have a powerful narrative capabilities but in reality most companies have been slow to use maps in this way.
The question is – “why tell stories with maps?”, “How can it help your business?”
Well let’s get straight to it – here’s 5 quick ways that telling stories with maps can help your business.
1) Maps are efficient at telling stories
Would you rather read a book that looks like this…
There are very few mediums of communication as efficient as maps. When you look at a map, you can digest vast amounts of data in what seems like an instant.
Maps are universally understood. They have always been part of our lives, from our bedroom and class room walls through to college and the workplace.
Maps lend themselves to a narrative much easier than a scatter diagram or a bar chart. These are things we see much less in everyday life and only learned later on in school or college.
For example – I recently witnessed two similar company presentations. One speaker took 6 slides to describe the geography of their business and the other uses a single slide with an image of a map.
In reality, if you looked at it in more detail, the first presenter demonstrated more impressive results but the audience was far more engaged with the second presentation as they got the point straight away.
2) Maps are engaging
Some of the most successful companies have created legendary narratives about their origins. From Apple’s humble beginnings in a garage to Facebook’s turbulent rise (which was so engaging it got it’s own movie).
The harsh truth is that most people don’t care about the details. We are so bombarded with information these days that any unique method of communication is a breath of fresh air.
Newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian and The Economist have caught onto this fact and are publishing maps that drive huge numbers of readers to their sites every day. The ability to tell an ever changing news story with one visual is a game changer.
Business can benefit from this tactic too and innovative companies are starting to deploy maps internally and externally that tell stories of success to customers and employees.
Check out this example of the RSA in England who use eSpatial to communicate large amounts of data to the public in an engaging way.
3) Maps provide context
Maps provide a frame of reference – they give context.
Consider some of the great fantasy worlds from Lord of the Rings to Game of thrones. Maps are used in these stories give context and a sense of vastness to these new, strange worlds.
They provide the reader with a frame of reference that would have taken countless pages to describe.
Oftentimes navigating new territories for business can have a similar effect. When entering a new market or defining a sales region, using sales mapping software can help visualize what is involved and get everyone on the same page.
Maps help align perceptions and give an accurate picture of the landscape in a fraction of the time, so everyone is on the same page.
4) Maps give the reader control
Using interactive maps helps give a sense of control and freedom.
The story does not have to be linear – you can zoom and explore areas that interest you.
The visual nature of geographic data encourages further exploration. Making data fun means it’s less like work and more like a game.
Think about preparing reports for monthly sales meetings – we usually present them as a “fait accompli”. Results are either accepted or debated but there is little scope to dig in and slice and dice the data yourself.
Alternatively, you could use interactive mapping software that shares sales results and lets the audience analyze the areas that interest them.
In this way the story contained in the maps may lead to greater discovery or inspiration.
5) Maps provide color
I’m leaving the simplest point to last but often it is overlooked in day to day business.
Color makes story telling more rich and descriptive. Visualizing data with heat maps and color coded regions aids fast and accurate decision making.
Patterns and shapes in maps can help companies discover trends in their own stories, whether it be marketing, sales or cultural change. Maps help tell stories that might have been invisible otherwise.
More and more companies are discovering the narrative power of maps.
What company wouldn’t want to tell stories that engage customers and employees with context, control and color?
Maps can be great story telling tools that add extra dimensions of understanding to your business both internally and externally.
Try mapping your business data today to discover what stories emerge and what insight you can gain.