Customer Equity Accelerator Podcast

Ep. 32 | Getting Your Message Through with Lea Pica

What does that chart mean? How does it relate to the last one? Are your hard-fought insights getting through? A yawning gap has formed between analysts and executives when it comes to communication through data, enough to deem data storytelling the most valuable position by some CAOs. We must turn insights into effective action to drive quick wins within any customer-centric organization. This week learn how to get your message through with presentation and data storytelling expert Lea Pica. Lea provides a series of tips and shortcuts to make your customer data come to life. See the full transcriptView all episodes.


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Show Transcript

Allison Hartsoe - 00:04 - This is the Customer Equity Accelerator, a weekly show for marketing executives who need to accelerate the customer-centric thinking at digital maturity. I'm your host, Allison Hartsoe of Ambition Data. This show features innovative guests who share quick winds on how to improve your bottom line while creating happier, more valuable customers. Ready to accelerate? Let's go!

Welcome, everyone. Today's show is about how to get your message through anyone who has ever tried to manage change within an organization certainly knows the importance of communication and with data it's even more challenging. So I've actually even heard one CAO say that the two most important positions on her team were a product manager, which she considered a factory foreman and data storyteller. So to help me discuss this very important topic is Lea Pica. Lea is a data storytelling expert, someone who I think you will just absolutely enjoy hearing and she's also the founder of and host of the fabulous Present Beyond Measure podcast. Lea, welcome to the show.

Lea Pica - 01:19 - Thank you so much, Allison. Thank you for having me.

Allison Hartsoe - 01:22 - Tell us a little bit more about your background and you know, how did you end up in this concept of data storytelling? It's fairly new.

Lea Pica - 01:31 - Yes. You know, it's funny. The concept of storytelling is as old as time itself, but bringing those elements into how we look at data is what I think makes this field such a hot topic and so exciting to be at the forefront of. So, um, regarding my background, I spent 12 years as a digital marketer and SEO and SEM and finally landed in an analytics management position where I created analytics programs and implemented them for several companies like Victoria's Secret, Prudential and Bath, and Body Works. And the most interesting thing would happen. I found that on top of getting to roll around and heaps of data all day, I would be asked to walk into a room full of very important looking people and sometimes intimidating. And I'd be asked to present my findings and make them care about what I was doing all day.

Lea Pica - 02:29 - And what I would watch instead is I would watch them doze off or check their email or even play games on their phone. Oh, I definitely caught it. And by the end of that meeting I was getting so frustrated that the conversation wasn't really much of a dialogue and that weeks or months later after that meeting, nothing would happen. No one would care about my work, no one was taking action on my insights, and I just didn't understand where I was going wrong. So one day I accidentally discovered neuroscience-based presentation and data visualization principles. And it was like a eureka moment that blew my whole mind open. And I decided to go way deep on these subjects because I realized that I was making every mistake in these books because simply because no one had taught me how to present data to the brains of my audience.

Lea Pica - 03:29 - You know, there are so many different personality types and preferences, but the way that our brain interprets and absorbs information is actually pretty consistent. This is why, you know, when we look at our stakeholders, we may think that they're very dry, but they're really going home and watching Game of Thrones. Everyone loves a great story, so I really couldn't believe that I wasn't empowered with these tools and I was also finding that everyone else in my field was not empowered with these tools. So I remember I was at an e metrics conference probably about 10 years ago now, and I vowed that one day I would empower others in my field with the tools and the mindsets they needed to do four things to inform decisions, inspire action, create memorable moments, and create indispensability for themselves the way I had. Because when I started using these principles, I got promoted. I survived layoffs.

Lea Pica - 04:31 - I got approvals to hire more teams. It was a really immediate impact, and it really allowed me to create a personal brand for myself in my company that leads to this path. So through a series of very fortunate events like speaking invitations and coaching requests, I decided to create a training speaking consulting and podcasting business that allows me today to teach thousands of digital practitioners at whatever stage they are in their career and empower them with all of the tools that I wish I'd known and had when I started out. So it's been an amazing ride so far else.

Allison Hartsoe - 05:08 - Imagine what a great story. What a great way to kick off with a great story. And you know,

Lea Pica - 05:14 - that's why I'm here.

Allison Hartsoe - 05:15 - Probably in these, you know, in my interviews, I usually start off with something like why should I care? But I think in this case we all know that communication is really important and data storytelling is particularly difficult. So could you begin by telling us a little bit about some of the common mistakes that you see newbies making? The ones that you alluded to just a few minutes ago when you said you were making every mistake in the book?

Lea Pica - 05:45 - Absolutely. So we'll get to like the visual aspect of presentations in a moment because that's what we think of when we first think of a bad presentation, but that's only a bad deck necessarily. I think that the first misstep that we make, and again, all of this is simply a result of not being equipped with the information we need when we start out. So there's no judgment at whatsoever, but it's not thinking about what we're presenting as a story. So one of the things that I teach are thinking about what are the elements that make a great story? There is a strong protagonist. There's an interesting antagonist or obstacles. There's maybe a guide. There are surprising twists and turns, and there's a really satisfying resolution.

Lea Pica - 06:39 - And what I'm finding is that our presentations, whether it has data or it's a request or a proposal of a new idea, we're not incorporating those elements that keep an audience in rapt attention while you're speaking. And that is your number one goal when you go in there and try to present is you are trying to maintain their attention, and you're trying to be memorable enough to make them want to act once they walk out of that room. So I try to teach some of the ways that we can incorporate those storytelling elements. So in thinking, I use star wars as an example because it's the best. So you know, I'll, I'll say you have an epic battle between Luke and Darth Vader and you know, people think of, you know, Luke as themselves. I'm the hero. I'm going in there; I'm the hero. And the surprising thing is you're not actually the hero.

Lea Pica - 07:39 - The audience is the hero. You are trying to help the audience win a battle with Darth Vader and with Darth represents are the challenges and obstacles that your data is showing about how your customers are interacting with your brand. So you and then people say, well, what does that make me? And what you are is Yoda. You are actually the guide and the sensei for Luke, your audience to help overcome these obstacles. Because when you are going in there from a framework of, I'm going to make my audience, when you can't imagine how much more productive that is, so even some of those data storytelling elements are crucial, and I'd love to take you through kind of five steps that I have and in terms of telling a story behind your data, that for me really consistently delivers engaging and actionable results may show that?

Allison Hartsoe - 08:38 - those five steps, but I also want to circle back to what you said just a second ago. If you're to be successful you, you come in with this idea about that you're going to help your audience when you've got the storytelling mindset, but when new people try to communicate data, is it that they come in with the sense that they are the hero?

Lea Pica - 09:02 - Well, that's just it. If they're coming in with a sense of story at all, and what I'm saying is a lot of us aren't doing that. A lot of us are just going at the data as a sort of shopping cart, and we're dumping every possible thing that we can think of in there. Running it through the cashier and hoping that as they scan each item, one of these things is going to catch their attention and there's a lot to that communication piece as well in terms of assessing what your audience actually needs and there's a whole process behind that, um, that I think would really serve anyone to look at their audience from a needs perspective. So it's not coming in with a story, it's coming in with a big shopping bag full of random items and just kind of spreading them all over the table.

Allison Hartsoe - 09:53 - I always call that data puke it, it's awfully gross, but it is actually that in practice too.

Lea Pica - 10:04 - And sometimes you need something that striking to be to really send a message home.

Allison Hartsoe - 10:10 - Okay, let's move onto your five steps. Your side of our five methodologies.

Lea Pica - 10:15 - Yes. So it's five questions to take your audience through that. Provide a lot of what great data storytelling or storytelling in general does. So the first thing, the first question is what happened? And you want to relay this regarding observation, something that feels impartial and objective. You're not too quick to overlay your judgment and your own assessment on top of it because you want to build trust and credibility, so that's gonna be the first thing is stating what you saw that happened, but then our job as analysts for me is really to go deeper and say why do we think it happened and this is where the subjectivity and the unique lens of each of our experiences is really important, and you don't have to be right because being right or wrong is also pretty subjective in our field, but at least using our experience to theorize

Lea Pica - 11:14 - and it may even engage the audience in a dialogue about, well, this is why we think it happened. What do you guys think? You know, that's what's going to start creating some real wheels turning and some really great conversation during that meeting. Then the next thing you can do as a presenter is a start to show even additional value and say, well, what should we do about it? If we had our way, these are the steps that we would take to take action on this particular item. And my great friend Evan LaPointe actually gave me this advice on my podcast where he said, always leave at least two recommendations for people because if you give one and they don't agree with it, that's going to create friction and might alienate them a bit, but giving them two options that you can discuss empowers them with the idea that they're in the driver's seat with you in making a choice.

Allison Hartsoe - 12:10 - That's a really important point. I just want to underscore that because we use that philosophy and quite a few locations. Um, often when we produce contracts, we give people a choice. It's striking how often that, that strategy is used. Uh, I think almost any, anything you would buy has, well, not anything you'd buy, I guess you can't say it in the general retail world, but often if you're going to buy a Martech tool, for example, you have the low, medium and high option. They're giving you that choice not just to empower you, but also to nudge you to the middle option. So if I could build on to Evan's recommendation, I would actually say give three recommendations and put the one that you really pick in the middle.

Lea Pica - 12:56 - Oh, okay. Oh, this is getting. I love building on the strategies that I already use. That's really fantastic. And of course, I don't think there's anything wrong with structuring what you deliver in a way that aligns with your best outcome. Right? But also, you know, regarding thinking about what's going to meet everyone's needs, I think that's great.

Allison Hartsoe - 13:21 - So that was the first three steps. I think you mentioned there were five. So, um, after you show additional value than what.

Lea Pica - 13:29 - So this for me is one of so crucial. They're all crucial, but this one in particular and it's saying once you've delivered those recommendations and everyone's kind of moving towards agreeing to stuff, I don't want you to walk out of that room without identifying who should do it and by when. So creating accountability around recommendations, I find after working with hundreds of practitioners is that we often, even if we get to the point of giving recommendations will go and that's it. Alright, bye and for me, when I asked my students guys, if we don't assign the recommendation to someone who is going to take responsibility and everyone shakes their head, no one, and it's the same thing if we give recommendations like continuing to monitor or making this change and there's no reasonable deadline, when's it going to get done?

Allison Hartsoe - 14:31 - People don't let it. Maybe at least with the manager with someone who has a feeling for this person would be good to solve this problem so that people just don't sit there and go, oh, not me, not me. It's going to be okay. You didn't see any of the presentations.

Lea Pica - 14:48 - Uh, yeah. I think that's a great idea. I always recommend collaborating with the manager. That or some senior level who's going to be present at that meeting or is sponsoring you for this meeting. Uh, this is something we talked about on your appearance, on my shows. Having that sponsor advocate for you present at the meeting. And I think working with them in advance to say like, well, what are the best chances? Who's going to be the best person to take this on? Because yeah, we don't want to just look around the room, be like, who's got this one? Guys, it's my experience that depending on the kind of recommendation, there's a natural group or person who would naturally be accountable for it, um, and it would make sense. And of course if there's an overwriting person in the hierarchy there, they can make that final call, but at least having the conversation rather than just delivering the recommendations and then leaving it there I think is a crucial step in making these meetings really worth everyones. While

Allison Hartsoe - 15:56 - that's a really good point to underscore. And it's one that's often missed.

Lea Pica - 15:56 - Yes.

Allison Hartsoe - 15:56 - Not anymore.

Lea Pica - 16:03 - So there is one more, and I actually, I'm trying to remember where I learned this one, but I thought this was really interesting which is communicating or trying to articulate in tangible terms, what is the possible cost of not taking action. If we did nothing, what's going to happen? Is our campaign performance just going to plateau? Are we going to lose ground and performance in this way? Our customer is going to keep abandoning our lead generation process at an increased rate. And this one's tougher just because, you know, it could require some projections and things like that, but if you're really good with your numbers, this is a really powerful tool because then they are, that's kind of lighting a fire under them to say, Oh guys, we can't let that happen. That's the worst tradeoff. Then having enough time to do nothing.

Allison Hartsoe - 17:07 - This is where the customer angle can come in and be very powerful because if you think about it in terms of frustrating your high value customers and you know, watching them walk away, even if you could put it into that context, you would end up with either a customer voice or be that you could see the actual use cases and the activity of the customer's changing over time. That would be a very solid way to say not only is there a cost regarding the channel, you know, the actions that we normally see on the channel, like click-throughs or engagements. But there is a longterm cost regarding the amount of revenue we build for the business. When we, uh, when we isolate, when we frustrate people who have high statistical propensity to buy from us again, which are high your customers.

Lea Pica - 17:58 - Yes, exactly. That's exactly what I was thinking was that the data that you help companies work with is really catered well to identifying that kind of risk.

Allison Hartsoe - 18:09 - And there's very few of them, you know, we almost always see that breakout into a, a rough 80/20 split and it's usually less than two percent. So if you're, uh, identifying your high-value customers who are often you're very frequent engagers, those folks who are frustrated, you know, even in a channel perspective can also be the ones that are not just the first to walk away, but there that 17% or, or less. There's a small number of [inaudible], and they're hard to get back.

Lea Pica - 18:43 - Oh yes. That's also a really good point is I think the power and the kinds of data that you're working with, you are also understanding the loyalty factors and the expense of resources and trying to maintain even really high-value customers. So I think that's an amazing lens.

Allison Hartsoe - 19:03 - Well, since we're talking about value, let's, let's go right into that. Um, is there a tangible impact that you've seen from people or companies who tend to get it right in this kind of communication strategy? Do they see an impact of some sort?

Lea Pica - 19:20 - I think so, and I think where I've seen the companies really when the most are, especially when they have the voice of the customer at their disposal, um, I haven't worked extensively with companies that actually calculate and work with customer lifetime value models. I have a pretty extensive background in content marketing but regarding companies that are getting it right with communicating their insights and then making those insights really work for them. There's a couple of things that I'm seeing. So the people who are getting communication right internally, they're really winning with their stakeholders, they're thinking about what it is they're stakeholders actually need, you know, they're asking probing questions. They're having dialogues with them. They're saying questions like, what is at the top of your plate right now? Or what would a successful q three look like to you?

Lea Pica - 20:16 - Questions that get more to the emotional heart of what is behind the stakeholders, actions that is beyond just the stakeholder saying, we'll give me everything that you've got, because we often get that, and I think when we hear that question, part of that question is rooted in them not really understanding how their needs overlap with what we're able to provide as analysts, so the more we bridge that gap as practitioners, the more we're going to win and that is going to start demonstrating the value of our work to them and for me the real end game is creating mutually fulfilling relationships between the practitioner, presenter and their own organizations and clients and when that cycle starts to happen really, they're going to see less customer churn.

Lea Pica - 21:12 - They're going to see higher customer satisfaction and more loyalty because they're really understanding the value of their investment that they're making in analytics and they are really acting upon it in a way that is it meat more immediately measurable. I have found that when stakeholders and companies are more engaged in that process through the exchange of data and stories, the faster they are going to act on it, they are galvanized into action, and regarding agencies, they have happier clients, less employee churn. I don't think people realize, but I know so well the sort of dissatisfaction that can brew when I feel like I'm not making a difference and I'm not in a functional relationship with my stakeholders. It's almost like a dysfunctional marriage. A lot of the same dynamics can present in business and in professional relationships, and you know, this really ensures that both parties understand the value that each side is bringing to the table and they're acting like partners rather than a service or a vendor to a client.

Allison Hartsoe - 22:23 - That's incredibly important in it, and it really goes well beyond the agency side. I have heard a, particularly in the chief data officer summits that I tend to go to pick up, you know, the latest and greatest ideas. The ones that are winning are oftentimes the ones that have developed a system for reaching out and really deeply understanding what different parts of the organization need I e the stakeholders and as part of that, they oftentimes embed an analyst to bring the crossover that you have the subject matter expertise crossing over with the analyst and it's not just the subject matter expertise, it's also what levers can these people pull, which restricts what kind of actions they can take. We've all been there where you recommend something, and they're like, well, that's nice, but I can't do anything about that even though it should be okay.

Lea Pica - 23:22 - Right? Yes, exactly. Yeah, I've seen that a lot with the client positioning an analyst role to act as a sort of bridge between the houses. I think that can go really well if-if a well-crafted choice for that role happens.

Allison Hartsoe - 23:38 - Now with all your experience, I imagine you have put together a methodology to put this impact and the philosophy for good data communication together. Uh, can you share with us a little bit about the methodology that you use?

Lea Pica - 23:55 - Just so have you asked about that, so yes, you're right. One of the things that I found when I was devouring every book I could and following every expert I found that I was having trouble approaching a business question that I was being asked to visualize and ending up at the end with something that was concrete, trustworthy, and actionable. So I worked really hard to distill everything I've pulled from different experts in all of my experience into something I call the Pica Protocol. So the idea behind it is that we tend to present these unhealthy visualizations that don't serve anybody, and the Pica Protocol is a very prescriptive approach that is practical. It's repeatable, it's not abstract or pie in the sky, and it's a tool set that you can use consistently every time to deliver visualizations and data stories that really answered questions and meet the four goals that I talked about in the beginning. If you'd like, I'd love to go through the first step, go.

Allison Hartsoe - 23:55 - I'm on my seat. Go ahead.

Lea Pica - 25:13 - Excellent. So it starts with P, which is the purpose and what I've found is very often we'll kind of dive right into data, and we'll just start developing charts as soon as we possibly can. We'll put it in a Powerpoint; we'll throw it up there. And what I want us to do is take a step back and start to really ask some philosophical questions to the overarching question, you know, why do you exist, what decisions are you going to inform? How are you going to make my stakeholder's life better? That's one of my favorite questions, you know, so determining that you can actually start to verbalize out loud, or you can brainstorm on a piece of paper, you know, I want to show my stakeholder's interested in seeing how something changes over time based on what we've done in the last quarter with this campaign. You know, you can start to verbalize these things, and then you start to look for keywords which we know something about in this field, but you start to look for keywords in that brainstorm.

Lea Pica - 26:17 - And certain keywords will help, um, ideas for which chart type to choose. So things like over how something changes over time or this changes when that changes or comparing this group of things to how it did last year. So these kinds of keywords can literally point you to a side by side bar chart, a scatter plot, a line graph, your rear line graph, but that way at least you have some sign posts to guide you to an appropriate chart because that's one of the most crucial pieces of success at the outset.

Allison Hartsoe - 26:57 - I actually was surprised when you said to look for keywords, I thought you were going to say, to create resonance with the stakeholder and you went to create to the chart type, which is a really good application of that and as we're listening to these stakeholders and so that was a bit of a surprise for me. Do you also find some times that by listening more accurately, you also create? Are you setting yourself up to create resonance?

Lea Pica - 27:26 - I couldn't agree with you more. One of the greatest areas of growth for myself is listening to learn rather than just listening to respond. I find that this is very prevalent. Communication breakdown, myself included, were very often when a stakeholder's talking, our minds will start getting distracted or wandering and or if they're starting to say something that we're not in agreement with, we're already crafting a rebuttal and we're giving that rather than really listening to them to learn about what they're saying. So I totally agree with you. The better listening skills we develop to hear how it is, how do they call things, what are, what's the vernacular that's familiar to them, that's gonna make this really clear to them and using that in the vocabulary of your insights I think is an amazing strategy.

Allison Hartsoe - 28:29 - Write that one down. So the first one is the purpose. What's the second element of the protocol?

Lea Pica - 28:37 - So the second is a real doozy and that's the word insight. So this is a word that we throw around so much in our field, and one day I thought to myself, what does that actually mean? What do we mean when we're saying this? And I learned that the definition of insight is something that gives us the capacity to understand something in an intuitive and accurate way. And I thought, wow, that's not what I would call what I'm doing for the most part. So I've spent years figuring out all different ways to get more to that piece because what I think, you know, Avinash Kaushik said this during a thought leader conversation a few years ago, he said, analysts need to be able to distinguish between data and insights. And I thought that that was really powerful. So the first tool that I teach for getting closer to those insights is actually those five steps that I took you through earlier.

Lea Pica - 29:38 - You know, you know, what happened and why do we think it happened. Those are the baseline of our insights, right? And making, crafting it in a way that, you know, can you build tension? Is there a beginning part of this story that says something like, you know, we're starting to see feedback from customers that they're having problems with this particular area. And then, Oh man, we, we go to the bird's eye view, and we see this as potentially happening to this percent of our website or you know, customer population, those kinds of things like starting smaller and then getting bigger and bigger. Those create a lot of anticipation and engagement, and they're insightful. Other ways for creating insight is making sure that you're leveraging other visual cues to give really a sense of how close you are to perform to people's expectations.

Lea Pica - 30:36 - So anytime you have targets or benchmarks or year over year, anything that can really allow you to understand your performance against expectations will also provide insight. And then the last piece of insight that I really like is if you're working with dashboards in particular, how you lay out the modules of a dashboard, are critical in helping people walk through a story on their own because it's self-serve ideally. So if you are looking at four different channels for something and the same types of metrics create consistency between how each of those channels is presented. So you're creating a language that people get familiar with and follow, and those insights will bubble up so much faster.

Allison Hartsoe - 31:27 - I love it. Especially when we often say reports are not analysis, but yet they're often to be analysis. So that story that comes through the dashboard is really leading someone down the path to asking the right analysis questions if you do it right.

Lea Pica - 31:47 - I think you're spot on. I know that Tim Wilson's great friend and analytics extraordinary. No, he really taught me that most well-crafted dashboard shouldn't require a walk through to understand what's happening. It should prompt the questions for deeper analysis, but if someone needs a walk through of it every week, something may not be right with the dashboard itself.

Allison Hartsoe - 32:17 - Makes sense and it's not just that. I often say this too, if you don't understand the data and. And so sometimes people come to us, and they say we want training, we want to understand data better and it's not that they haven't been taught to look at data there. I guess there is some element of that, but it's really more about the way the data has been cut or what's presented in a given data set that they don't know to ask for, so they look at a dashboard or they look at a graph or a chart and they don't understand it, and they think the problem is them, but the problem isn't them at all.

Lea Pica - 32:58 - Such a good point. Such a good point.

Allison Hartsoe - 33:02 - So insight we've got purpose and insight. What does the C stand for

Lea Pica - 33:08 - The C is really critical to making sure you're telling the whole story. So C stands for context and it's my request to everyone who analyzes data that when you think that you have arrived at a conclusion and you think you know what's going on, probe further, ask yourself, do I have all of the information at my disposal to tell a complete story and context can, uh, ways of incorporating context are saying what was performance this time last year or last quarter? What are different segments of our data that we can look at demographically, geographically, platform, technology, things like that? Is there a deeper story there? So those different ways. If you start to drill a bit deeper, you might actually find even a juicier story that compliments your initial finding or contradicts your initial finding.

Lea Pica - 34:08 - I've found that to be a really interesting storytelling trick where I'll start off saying, well, when we looked on the surface, this is what we found, which is what we expected, but wait for guys, when we dug deeper, we actually found this happening over here, which really blew our minds. So these are just ways that you can just get people so much more engaged rather than just rattling off disjointed numbers.

Allison Hartsoe - 34:35 - I think there's an interesting element for the analysts to. In the, in the production timeline, you often look at requests come in, and you have to respond to them within a certain period. So you know, maybe it's a a couple of days, maybe it's a couple of weeks and whatever that period is, we tend to push it to the very last minute and it sounds like in order to get the proper context in order to have time to probe further, you really need a buffer that.

Lea Pica - 35:09 - Yes, and I would. I'm going to say it here, I one day dream of a world where so many presenters and practitioners have adopted these kinds of practices to push back on some of the crazy deadlines that we get and say, I need more time because I want to deliver something that's going to be really valuable to you. I believe that we've gotten into a sort of cycle because who knows what the chicken and the egg was, but because we are starting so late, procrastinating myself included, we're putting together something that we think just about covers it. It'll just do the job so that we can leave the room and get back to the real work. Right. And we are feeding a cycle of stakeholders saying I need to see these numbers by tomorrow or Friday and it's Wednesday.

Lea Pica - 36:06 - And what they're used to getting is something really quickly, hastily put together. They do not see something, and I think that so many stakeholders just haven't seen what that can look like, that they don't know what's worth waiting for yet.

Allison Hartsoe - 36:22 - Or maybe the analysts haven't been trained enough to go deeper, and whether they give them two weeks or two months or two days, they basically get the same answer.

Lea Pica - 36:33 - Exactly. That's a great point. That's a great point. Of course, the analysts need to be equipped with the tools and the desire to probe deeper and then once the time is removed as a barrier than it is really up to them to take that step.

Allison Hartsoe - 36:51 - So, how much time either regarding hours or days or weeks do you think is reasonable to add as the buffer?

Lea Pica - 36:57 - I think this is a great question and the answer is it depends. So what I found was when I was starting to incorporate a lot of these principles, I was slow going. I had to sometimes ask for weeks if it was like a big quarterly review because I was trying to figure out my sort of groove, my storytelling groove. But once I found that and once I incorporated best practice, um, I'm actually going to give a clue to the final step, which is an aesthetic principle. But once I started incorporating that and I started getting templates under way with a storytelling narrative that consistently worked, I found that I could get things out the door a lot faster because I had trained myself in an approach of what to look for, how to keep it really focused,

Lea Pica - 37:50 - so I wasn't really presenting more than three major top line insights and maybe some supporting points behind that because I found that the fewer insights I talked about, the more likely people were to act on them because we simply just cannot hold that much more information in our heads at once.

Allison Hartsoe - 38:10 - Otherwise it becomes, uh, too much noise. People can't figure out what to do with that data.

Lea Pica - 38:16 - Exactly the the, it's called cognitive load, and it's one of the things I think preventing people from acting on information when we present because there are just too many things to think about.

Allison Hartsoe - 38:29 - That makes sense. Okay. So maybe start out by giving yourself at least a week, extra time and see where that takes you and then modify from there as you get used to the process.

Lea Pica - 38:42 - Yes. You know, really lobby for yourself, work with your boss and say things like, you know, I really want to try something different. I really want to make this so valuable for the stakeholders, but it's going to require a little bit of elbow grease. So can you give me a little bit of extra time so I can really show you what I'm capable of. You know, people want to see their teams producing higher quality information, you know, and I think that they're willing to wait if it's lobbied for the right way.

Allison Hartsoe - 39:11 - And you know, one more thing on this when I sometimes think when you pre-deliver the first level of insights, you end up pulling on subject matter experts and creating that stronger relationship with stakeholders, with other groups that start to give you more direction about where else to look or whether your insight actually has legs. You know, maybe you're fabulous insight is the result of a Bot that somebody filtered out at one point and

Lea Pica - 39:11 - I know. It's the worst.

Allison Hartsoe - 39:45 - Good. Okay. So you mentioned the last point is aesthetic. What does that involve?

Lea Pica - 39:50 - Yes. So aesthetics is the visual component of anything, and when I talk about aesthetics in this context, I'm not talking about making things pretty or flashy, or a snazzy and I've heard all of those words being used to describe what people are looking for to prevent boredom. But what I mean is using brain centered visual principles, things like gestalt principles and alignment and white space to create breathing room for our brains so that what we're trying to communicate comes across crystal clear. And the key to this is that we're not making our audience do any visual work on their own to understand what it is we're trying to say. As soon as we are making them do unnecessary work, we lose their attention.

Allison Hartsoe - 40:44 - That makes sense.

Lea Pica - 40:48 - So aesthetics includes things that I mentioned like alignment and white space, and when it comes to charts, a lot of it is removing the extraneous noise that our tools add by default. So extra gridlines and access lines and fonts that are too small and diagonal labels. These are all things that interfere with how our brains understand information. And then the final piece that is crucial as how we use color were very often using color in an arbitrary fashion, um, to just color different categories and such, but we stopped to appreciate that red and green especially have a certain meaning, but we often use those in a somewhat arbitrary way. So my favorite tool for that is I to color all of my data, like a baseline gray to create a backdrop.

Lea Pica - 41:38 - And then when I point out my key insight, I'm using some sort of standout color, like a blue, uh, for emphasis or a deep red for something that needs attention and saying, but look at this particular point. And that is a visual tool for telling your specific story

Allison Hartsoe - 41:57 - So much easier to digest than the colorful chart with a big red line around one area.

Lea Pica - 41:57 - Like a big Powerpoints.

Allison Hartsoe - 42:11 - Yeah, exactly. And an arrow and a bunch of [inaudible] alongside it. This is where you should focus. Yeah, I, I agree on a color.

Lea Pica - 42:17 - Yeah. We are visual creatures first, and we are designed to pick out color as a distinguishing characteristic. So really use it mindfully as a tool intentionally, not just as something that happened to your graph.

Allison Hartsoe - 42:32 - I went over to a friend's house who was a designer, and we're walking around in her living room, and I'm thinking, gosh, it feels so comfortable. It feels so good. And then I looked closely at her bookshelf and what she had done is put all books, have the same color, all like she had color grouped things. And you wouldn't notice it immediately, but you are automatically responding to it.

Lea Pica - 42:57 - Yes. And also that's using a principle of ah I forget what it is, but when things are grouped together, I'm like contiguity it might be. That is something that we're also very attuned to.

Allison Hartsoe - 43:11 - Absolutely. Okay. So if people want to understand more about the Pica Principle, often folks who are on my show have, you know, like a document or some way for them to get more information, which we include in the podcast, in the notes section that appears on our site. Is there something along these lines that we can include for you?

Lea Pica - 43:35 - Absolutely. So I just produced a 22 page deep dive into the entire Pica Protocol. It's called The Prescription, and all of your listeners would be able to grab it at, or you can text the word one word and ambitiondata, 44222. And you'll get a free copy in your inbox, and you'll also be signed up to get all of my best resources.

Allison Hartsoe - 44:04 - Fantastic. I love the text element. So if you're a, hopefully not driving, but you're listening to this remotely, you could just text 44222. So you texted that number, and you send the word ambitiondata.

Lea Pica - 44:04 - Exactly, yes.

Allison Hartsoe - 44:19 - Excellent. Okay. Um, so usually at this point we go into some of the next steps of a. What should I do first, second and third? Can you give us a quick summary that you've given so many takeaways, but, um, is there a particular action someone should take first?

Lea Pica - 44:37 - Yes. The first thing we'll first hafting is definitely downloaded the protocol. It's gonna Change your whole life or at least your work, but I'd love to actually give a few communication tidbits that are based in nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg. These have been amazing in how I interact and relate to my stakeholders. The first piece I would give is to stop what you're thinking when you think you know what someone's saying. I'm curious him before making any assumptions about what someone wants or what they're arguing. Stop and ask some questions. Have a curiosity mindset that is going to serve you so well, and the next really powerful tool is acknowledgment. I often observe that a practitioner might be presenting their hard work or the stakeholder's asking a question and start critiquing things, but if we stopped to actually acknowledge each other first, wow, this is an amazing start,

Lea Pica - 45:36 - or, wow, that's a really insightful question. Tell me more who can't imagine the difference it's going to make in the good, the good vibes that get tossed around and how work becomes more productive because of that. And then the third tool I really recommend is adopting a service mindset, and we rent reference this a little bit in the beginning. When you convince yourself that your role is to serve your clients, your bosses, your audience, you start to begin to work from a needs-based perspective. You think about how you're going to make their lives better, and that transmutes from just grudgingly meeting their demands that are going to not only improve their satisfaction, but it's going to improve your job satisfaction and fulfillment. So these are some of the greatest tools I have in my belt.

Allison Hartsoe - 46:26 - Often talk about that with the customer mindset. How do you be of service to your customers, but it really does apply in almost every audience, every direction probably makes the world a better place in the process as well.

Lea Pica - 46:41 - Absolutely, and I have to get these out there because I really don't care how beautiful your charts are. If there is something fundamentally imbalanced about your relationship with your stakeholders, they're not going to matter much.

Allison Hartsoe - 46:57 - You know, we often say that too, um, if somebody doesn't like you, they don't really listen to you, and it doesn't matter how good your thoughts are. Y

Lea Pica - 46:57 - Yes, it's very true.

Allison Hartsoe - 47:07 - If people want to get in touch with you, how can they reach you?

Lea Pica - 47:11 - So I'm on LinkedIn. Feel free to send me a connection request and a message. I check it very frequently. I'm also at Twitter. I'm @leapica, and I'd love for you to check out my blog, It has my podcast, lots of great articles. Um, and yeah, lots of ways to get it

Allison Hartsoe - 47:30 - and some good dashboard remodels too that I've seen that are a lot of fun to watch.

Lea Pica - 47:36 - So that's been a really interesting new service and working with companies, I'm calling it a dashboard triage where I'm finding that companies are due to create dashboards in a short period and they're striking out with our initial passes, and I'm able to come in and sort of in the clutch and empower them with better visualizations and better realignment and storytelling, and that's helping serve them. Really get the, basically get the ball into the goal essentially. And it's been really fascinating. I can't wait to talk more to the dashboard work I'm doing this year. Well, yeah,

Allison Hartsoe - 48:12 - links to everything we discussed today and particularly Lea's fabulous guide and other resources will be available at podcast. Lea, thank you for joining us today.

Lea Pica - 48:25 - Oh, it was really my pleasure. Thank you so much, Allison. Thank you for having me.

Allison Hartsoe - 48:31 - Remember everyone, when you use your data effectively, you can build customer equity. It is not magic. It's just a very specific journey that you can follow to get results. Thank you for joining today's show. This is Allison. Just a few things before you head out. Every Friday I put together a short bulleted list of three to five things I've seen that represent customer equity signal, not noise, and believe me, there's a lot of noise out there. I actually call this email the signal. Things I include could be smart tools. I've run across articles, I've shared cool statistics or people and companies I think are doing amazing work, building customer equity. If you'd like to receive this nugget of goodness each week, you can sign up at, and you'll get the very next one. I hope you enjoy The Signal. See you next week on the Customer Equity Accelerator.


Connect with Lea:



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Twitter: @LeaPica



Key Concepts:  Customer Lifetime Value, Marketing, Digital Data, Customer Centricity, Long-Term Customer Value, Marketing Leaders, Analytics, Creativity, Product Development, Audience Research


Who Should Listen:  CAOs, CCOs, CSOs, CDOs, Digital Marketers, Business Analysts, C-suite professionals, Entrepreneurs, eCommerce, Data Scientists, Analysts, CMOs, Customer Insights Leaders, CX Analysts, Data Services Leaders, Data Insights Leaders, SVPs or VPs of Marketing or Digital Marketing, SVPs or VPs of Customer Success, Customer Advocates, Product Managers, Product Developers

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