That stories have a powerful impact on us is well known. Here’s how storytelling actually works in favour of the storyteller~
~ Stories create an instant emotional bond between the narrator and listener.
(helps build empathy with the narrator)
~ Stories engage a greater area of the brain than a string of monotonous data or facts.
(translates into better engagement and attention)
~ Stories help synchronize the listener’s brain with the narrator’s brain.
(that’s gold dust for a marketer!)
~ Guess what would you remember better? A well told story or facts?
(better memory= higher brand recall!)
~ Stories have the ability to change chemistry of the brain.
On being told an emotionally engaging story, the brain produces oxytocin, a substance shown to increase generosity, empathy and trustworthiness. (research conducted by Dr Paul Zak)
~ Stories impact behaviour of the listener.
(imagine the potential to guide consumer behaviour.)
Where and how can we use storytelling to further our professions or business?
With the explosion of social platforms, the internet and their bearing on our lives, we seek to know more. At the same time, as we are inundated with non-stop stimuli from multiple directions simultaneously, we also build up a resistance to these inputs and become more selective or choosy.
Story helps break this barrier because it builds a human bond~ between narrator and listener.
We no longer feel overwhelmed with endless data and are thus more open to more information that comes in the form of stories.
So, where can storytelling be deployed in business that could help leverage this innate strength?
“If you wish to influence an individual or a group to embrace a particular value in their daily lives, tell them a compelling story.” ~ Annette Simmons
How many times have you said to yourself, “Oh no! Not one more boring LinkedIn profile!”
That is because what you have to go through is a long drawn list of degrees, qualifications, work history~ all probably in chronological order. Now imagine if these same facts were to be narrated in the form of story? You’d have to see the impact that a profile in story form creates! It also sends a message that the person has taken the effort to present her or his profile in a very interesting format.
2) CEO Story
People now want to get to know people behind organisations, from the human angle, more than ever before. A professional firm or a business can proactively create a bridge by sharing stories of key people. Does it have to be a tell it all biography? Not at all, although towards the end of their careers, the big achievers do write these (or have them written). It doesn’t have to even be a single story either. As part of the personal branding exercise, what works perfectly is a series of quotes, short stories or sharing of experiences. These snippets build the overall brand story in the mind of the recipient.
A perfect example is the corporate legend, Ratan Tata. He has (probably through an agency) increased his visibility on social media since retirement as an executive role at the Tatas.
Although a late starter, (his twitter profile indicates he joined in 2011) his voice has great credibility~ he now has over 6 million followers. A series of his memorable quotes shared on social media have enhanced his story further, and therefore the Tata brand as a whole.
For smaller and medium sized organisations with lower visibility, this makes greater sense. Sharing of stories by their founders/promoters communicates their vision and value proposition brilliantly.
3) Professional Story
For Doctors, Architects, Financial Advisors, Artistes and other professionals, storytelling is a boon. For some, who are barred from mass advertising, storytelling for personal branding is the natural go to vehicle for furthering their professional reputations. Even here, sharing expertise in a story form changes the whole scenario. Interesting client stories work wonderfully as well.
4) Organisational Story
Just as we would like to know more about people who run a company, we are equally interested in organisations as a whole. And organisations know this very well. Thus you’ll read stories about how innovative new age companies have offices designed to create a vibrant work culture. Or of the flexi-time policies of other companies. Think about it~ what sticks in our minds is stories involving dramatic corporate turnarounds, audacious takeovers and even of struggles and how an organisation successfully overcame it. All these help cement the corporate brand image in our minds.
Similarly, what endears us most with an organisation is stories of compassion~ of how a company is generous with its employees and other stakeholders. Corporate Social Responsibility exercises of a company present another opportunity to present it in story form. Imagine sharing the story of beneficiaries/recipients rather than cold data? This builds an empathetic bond if done with sincerity.
5) Product/Service Story
What goes into the designing and making of a successful product~ why not share a story about how it was thought of, designed and executed. Even the advertising and marketing strategy of the product or service is a story idea. I remember reading a few years ago about an Indian woman designer who went to the African jungles~ her mission? Seeking inspiration for the design of a new SUV for Mahindra & Mahindra. The XUV 500 was inspired from the bodylines and aerodynamics of a cheetah in full flight. How’s that for a memorable story!!
This works especially well in the luxury goods/services category, where the back story helps build its legacy in the minds of the discerning clientele.
Of course, each profession and business has its own peculiar communication needs. Which of the above did you identify yourself or your organisation with?