Buzzword Unpacked: Storytelling

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By Brianna McClean October 08, 2019 //

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For the last few years, ‘storytelling’ has been everywhere. In the mouths of marketing executives, on the websites of communication agencies and in boardrooms across the world. Businesses of all shapes and sizes have jumped on the storytelling bandwagon. It’s the buzzword of the decade. So, what’s all the fuss about?

A Definition

Storytelling is the sharing of narratives, either imaginary or real. In the business world, it is a branding and communication technique which focusses on narrative-like structures. Storytelling is the difference between:

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and

With toddler-ready avocado sandwiches in one hand, Emma founded Presentation Studio at her kitchen-bench. More than a decade later, six-million people have seen the difference our presentations make. Say goodbye to boring presentations!

What Does Storytelling Look Like?

Storytelling doesn’t mean inappropriate emotion or fluffy language. It means communicating effectively. Your audience, no matter who they are, will respond better to a story than any other form of communication. Storytelling is for every brand.

Sometimes, storytelling is as simple as it sounds: tell a story. Anecdotes are a wonderful way to increase the storytelling quota in your brand. But, storytelling isn’t simply incorporating anecdotes. It is a method and attitude which runs across every element of how a brand expresses itself, from websites and internal communications to keynote speeches. It takes the elements of a good narrative and applies them to branding and marketing. We all know, every good story has:
  • Characters we care about.
  • Vivid description which sparks our imagination.
  • A plot with a beginning, middle and end.
  • Suspense, drama and intrigue which tap into our emotions.
Effective storytelling takes these elements and implements them into a brand. This determines the format, style and tone of all communication.

It’s Science!

Influential
A neuroscience researcher at Princeton University has found that ‘storytelling is the only way to activate certain parts of the brain’ which cause audiences to associate the information with their own ideas and experiences, meaning they are far more likely to support the message they have heard.i

Memorable
What’s more, narratives are proven to be more memorable than any other format.ii Think about how much more difficult it is to remember a grocery list than what you did on the weekend. The difference is largely because one is in a narrative form. Stories are a primitive part of our communicative function as humans, they are key to helping us understand the world around us. For the entirety of our lives, stories are powerful sources of exploration, identification and community. The business world stands to benefit from this.

Likeable
Oxytocin is the chemical our brains release to indicate a social interaction is safe. It is key for encouraging cooperative behaviours. Just like when we meet someone new, when we are exposed to branding or a piece of corporate communication, our survival instincts scan it for safety. If oxytocin is released, then we are likely to respond positively. If it isn’t, we will feel distrustful and uncertain. A group of researchers found that character-driven narratives produce high levels of oxytociniii. That storytelling based branding will increase perceived trustworthiness and make your brand more likeable. Our brains love stories!

Five Ways Your Brand Can Benefit from Storytelling
  1.  Your audience will remember and respond more positively to your message.
  2.  Your staff will feel more connected to your business.
  3.  Your communication will target the most fundamental human communication need.
  4.  Your branding will become more engaging, human-centred and unique. Storytelling is a guaranteed method for effectively expressing your USP.
  5.  Your brand will be speaking the language of this decade – storytelling is a trend which is here to stay.
Convinced? We hope so! Storytelling is such an exciting communication movement. This buzzword is worthy of its hype. Successful brands know how to connect with their audience. What better way than by tapping into the powerful art of storytelling?

 

i https://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/how-did-storytelling-become-such-buzzword-business

ii https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/15/story-lines-facts

iii https://hbr.org/2014/10/why-your-brain-loves-good-storytelling

 

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