The power of storytelling
Stories have always fascinated me, captured my imagination, and mostly provided a form of ‘escape’ from the day to day. I think I can also honestly say that I will never grow old of tales about witches and wizards, ghosts and ghouls, elves and dwarves, in particular. Something which I think many people around me when I was growing up thought I’d grow out of. Just a phase. But here I am, 35 years old, still hooked. Still wanting more.
Standing the test of time
For me, that’s the true power of storytelling. It’s why I’ve loved working in employer branding and with young people for the last 12 years. Stories provide us all with the opportunity to inspire action and choices - to open hearts and minds. To deliver authentic messages and get a message across effectively. They are also timeless. Don’t believe me? Prehistoric cave paintings. The Egyptian hieroglyphs. Most of the greatest events in history are told as stories. So why aren’t more businesses embracing the opportunity to use the stories of their founders, their leaders, their people, to build trust and heighten emotion as part of their employer brand strategies. For many, stories belong in books. Left on a shelf gathering dust. They don’t give a clear return on investment. And those will be the businesses that are going to get left behind.
Yesterday I posed the question - ‘What makes a story memorable?’- to my Instagram followers.
The emotion that someone puts into it
When it stirs my emotions
When its a unique story and leaves you thinking
A learning applicable to many
and even one which surprised me - data/facts (I’ll explain why if you promise to carry on reading)
These align perfectly with what the Harvard Business Review suggests to be the key ingredients for a good story. Stories that evoke feelings, bonds and connections with the person telling them. Storytelling which speaks to our emotions, and overdrives the logical side of our brains (hence my surprise to see data/facts…) Maya Angelou wasn’t lying when she said:
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel
Emotions speak louder than words…
…by connecting us to other people. People we trust and feel are safe to approach. Perhaps even credible. Emotions are also intense, and build tension. They can also be fun and build a sense of identity and/or community - take emoticons as an example. They encourage us to share our own stories, creating authentic and truthful moments that break down walls and create common ground. And that’s where the true power lies for businesses - ‘character’ driven stories that provoke emotion will be remembered (and felt) long after a powerpoint presentation packed with data and facts, because facts don’t fuel action in the same way as emotional appeal. Facts arm you with the logic needed to drive informed decisions and form questions as a result of embracing the emotional side of your brain. Questions like:
Do I ‘buy’ what you’re telling me?
Am I onboard with the change you’re instigating?
Do I believe you?
Is that good advice?
Do I respect you?
And ultimately when it comes to recruitment - Shall I follow you?
Facts and emotions work together. Not in isolation. Facts don’t fuel action in the same way as emotional appeal, and emotions shouldn’t be solely relied upon when making important life decisions such as career choices. Although, they should be a significant factor in the process, and often be left to over ride logic, in my opinion…
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