Tips for effective storytelling
8 Feb 2021
In this collection of blog posts, we are featuring experts and influencers we work with to support our student learning and development.
We have all been through a bonkers year. Bonkers is a polite all-purpose word for crappy/ tough/ busy/ unprecedented (who isn’t sick of that word) crazy…. You get the picture and you can insert your own adjective as suits. We have seen some massive shifts in behaviours, such as a huge increase in digital consumption, notably by elderly groups, with some accessing digital platforms and social media for the first time.
Another trend emerging during lockdown for social enterprise was a focus on the community. A genuine appreciation of small and local businesses, the impact and character they bring to a place. This was married with a conscious desire to spend with local businesses, knowing that it helps people local to them survive and retains a service or product they want. Conscious consumerism has been a slow moving beast, regularly trumped by cheap and easy. But what a chance we have to keep this momentum moving – this sense of power that we as individuals have with every pound in our pocket we spend. Do we endorse the practices of large corporates and line the pockets of their share-holders. Or do we choose the independent, the small business that supports vulnerable people and makes this currently broken world that little bit better?
I think that one of the ways that social enterprises can capitalise on this trend is to share stories. Storytelling is an extremely valuable tool in marketing. Studies have shown that storytelling is so powerful that it has physical effects on the brain. Stories activate up to 7 regions of the brain, whereas simple factual information only stimulates 2 areas. Information told in a narrative form has also been proved to be more memorable, as well as being more motivational. Important as it means that people are more likely to take action.
Sharing your mission, vision and your impact stories will be crucial in retaining and winning hearts. People are ready to listen.
Here are some general tips that you can apply to any type of storytelling to make it as engaging and effective as possible.
Use specifics and details
Detail helps with memory and will allow you to create a story that resonates with people.
In talking about bigger issues, the emotional resonance and individual impact can sometimes be lost. Using small details and observations about specific situations can often convey much more reality and emotion while still being representative of wider realities and causes.
Embody universal themes and emotions
No matter what the situation, if you link a story to overarching themes and emotions, everybody will be able to connect in some way, even if they are far removed from the issue at hand.
Through storytelling, people who may have had little sympathy for your cause will feel more compassion and be more likely to support your organisation.
Show challenges and obstacles
One universal theme is that of struggle, something most people have experienced, even if this is to varying degrees of extremity.
Showing struggle in stories will humanise the subject, and this will cause a more emotional response in readers. By evoking this compassion, you will force readers to feel more engaged and connected to the story, which may prompt them to support your organisation.
If you are as honest and open as possible, people will be more likely to trust your organisation, and true stories are much more likely to resonate emotionally with audiences.
Keep it simple
Although detail is important, as mentioned above, this doesn’t mean that content needs to be extremely complex. Storytelling doesn’t have to come in the form of long narratives, with plot twists and villains and heroes. Rather, it is a part of everyday life, and can be integrated into a majority of the information you present to people.
For example, some small adaptations to an ‘about us’ page on a website can turn it from factual information to an origin story, sharing your own personal story. These don’t have to be major changes, but will make information much more interesting and engaging to read.
Keeping things simple also means that people are more likely to remember your story and therefore your organisation, which will make your marketing more successful overall.
Research shows that messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts. Leveraging some of the tips above will help you tap into this potential to make your content work really hard for you.
Helen Mincher is a regular contributor to our Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs programmes.