Why you need to tell a story

By Elin Salekärr

Why you need to tell a story

Do you find it difficult to remember the key takeaways when walking out of a meeting loaded with charts, graphs and tables? And maybe even more importantly, did it inspire you to action or did the overwhelming data turn you off, the result being the information entering one side of your head, to instantly take off again on the other?

Data and statistics, in all their glory, are fundamental in any business and can, to many marketers, be more comfortable to deal with. Still, it's common that it doesn't make people feel very much.

That's where storytelling comes in.

Contrary to quantifiable analytics, storytelling sets the strategic narrative that proves why you (as a business) exist and what positions you differently from everyone else. The difference between data and story is that data lists what happened while the story communicates how and why.

Data lists what happened while the story communicates how and why.

You want to tell who you are as a company, historically, currently and where you are heading. The story explains your values, why you stand out, and why you exist.

Delivering a message in a narrative context can be much more potent than just presenting it in figures and diagrams. A good one can quickly get the listener to understand, feel and interpret the message. What it also enables is to capture attention. If it sparks emotion, it will linger in your audiences' minds. If they can relate to the story's characters, you can grasp their empathy, making the story easier to remember. Stories are often a lot more catchy than plain facts. 

The history of storytelling goes way back, and the fundamentals of it haven't changed much since ancient Greece. Telling a story has been how cultures pass on shared beliefs and values, and it's the same today - whenever we learn, we want to share it with everyone else. We want someone to understand our situation, so we tell them a story.

Before you create it, ensure that you have defined the purpose, setting and plot to be able to hold the course of the message you want to share. Create a story that hooks, grabs and entertains, and you will get attention.

Customer loyalty expert Chris Malone's and social psychologist Susan Fiske's research show that we relate to companies and brands in the same way we naturally perceive, judge, and behave toward one another.

By creating a context of human relations, finding a shared purpose, and linking it to your company's values, you can construct a narrative that boosts, inspires and captivates your customers, colleagues or partners.

Stories make presentations better and get ideas to stick. They serve to inspire and motivate the audience, so it's no coincidence that they are often used by successful leaders when explaining and clarifying their "why" in a crucial moment where something significant needs to happen.

Those who can create, find, and share good stories, will build good relationships. That goes for both individuals and businesses.

Those who can create, find, and share good stories, will build good relationships.

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Elin Salekärr
Project Manager 2011-14 and 2017-23.
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