Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Storytelling: The Ancient Art That Touches Us All


Did you know that Forbes Magazine recently said, “The hottest trend in marketing today just might be the ancient art of storytelling”?

Why do you suppose that is?

The clue is in the word 'ancient'. Humans have been telling stories even before speech, through drawing and painting. Our brains are programmed to respond to stories in a completely different way than to facts and figures. Our emotions are engaged when we hear stories.

'Once upon a time' immediately elicits an expectation in the reader or listener and we unconsciously prepare ourselves for a story; we are more relaxed and open with stories.

Here's a really simple example from an imaginary company:

Version One. In this quarter turnover was up by 15%; expenses increased by 10%.  Therefore, profit increased by 5%. We expect profits to increase over the next two quarters.

Simple facts presented in a straightforward way.

Now for the storytelling version.

Version Two.  Everyone started the New Year full of energy and enthusiasm with some new ideas on how to build better customer relationships. These creative ideas clearly paid off because profits at the end of the first quarter are up by a staggering 15%.

Having got a sense of just how much energy there was, we anticipated getting more custom so we hired an additional member of staff and invested in some of the ideas the staff presented, so expenses increased as well - up by 10%.

But as Mr Micawber said, "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

And indeed our profit at the end of the first quarter is up 5%. Definitely happiness. Not only that, everyone's energy continues to thrive and since we've already made the investment we intend to for the next two quarters, profits should increase even more.

Obviously, in the first instance, it's all cut and dried and maybe that's how you have to present facts and figures.

The second version, however, takes you on a journey - which all good stories should do - and will better 'fix' the facts because of the descriptive language used. The language paints a picture and gives you a better insight into how the figures were arrived at, which in turn gives you a picture of what's happening inside our imaginary organisation.

Here's the best bit about storytelling:  if you're someone who's intrigued and interested in using stories in their business but don't think you're any good at it, think again.

Just about everyone is good at telling stories. You've been doing it from when you were wee, from when you were read to, from school days, from meeting new people and telling them about yourself, from nights out at the pub, or long gossip chats on the phone. You already know how to tell a good story.

What we've done at Impact Factory is to ground what people do naturally into something they can use really effectively in business. We've created an action-packed day that takes you on a journey from the personal (the best place to begin) to the business side of things; from the realm of the 'touchy-feely' into the realm of hard-nosed reality.


Check out Impact Factory’s Storytelling courses.


By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

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