The Art of Storytelling.

What is storytelling and how it creates empathy.


“Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

There’s an old story about David Ogilvy, one of the original mad men that established the dominance of the advertising field in the 50s and 60s, that seems to deal with storytelling as an avenue to create empathy. One morning on his walk to work, Ogilvy saw a beggar with a sign around his neck:

I AM BLIND.

The poor man slouched in a corner and would occasionally hold the cup up to his ear to give it a rattle, because he was unable to tell how much money was in it by looking. Most days, the beggar didn’t hear much. Ogilvy was in good spirits that day. It was late April in New York, when the air is beginning to warm, and there’s a peaceful pause before the city falls into the oppressive heat of summer. He decided to help the beggar, and dropped a contribution into the cup. Ogilvy explained what he did for a living when the beggar thanked him, and he asked for permission to modify the sign around the man’s neck. Upon receiving consent, he took the sign and added a few words.

That night, on his way home, Ogilvy said hello to the beggar, and was pleased to see his cup overflowing. The beggar, frazzled with his success, and uncertain of what Ogilvy did to the sign, asked what words were added:

IT IS SPRING AND
IM BLIND.

Ogilvy was able to create empathy in the passersby, who would have ignored the blind man, by adding a story.


That was one of my favorite examples of what storytelling can achieve. I found it from Frank Chimero’s book “The Shape of Design.”

“Storytelling is one of the most efficient communication methods we’ve devised. Its effectiveness is why so much of the wisdom and insight about what it means to be human is wrapped up in fables and parables. “

For further reading on the Art of Storytelling I would suggest following links.

1. Storytellers have more fun.
2. Content Marketing: A continuous storytelling.
3. 10 Tips on writing by David Ogilvy.