The Art of Storytelling and Crafting Stories for Impact
Hugh Anthony, PhD
Stories have always resonated with us as human beings. It is in our DNAs and helps to form the tapestry of our lives. By sharing our stories, we engage, connect, build trust and understanding of each other’s experiences. Storytelling is essential to our everyday lives; it aids in conveying purpose, curate possibilities, increase loyalty, and deepen relationships.
Do you remember your favourite childhood story and how captivating it was? Stories help us to relate to the world around us, foster curiosity and amplify meaning. Whether you are leading people, building a brand or selling a product or service, storytelling is an essential skill to have now more than ever as we engage on a much deeper level with our colleagues and clients.
Storytelling is an art form that is an interactive dialogue between the storyteller and their audience, engaging in an interwoven tapestry of words, sounds, visuals, imagination, emotional and sensory narratives. It aids in connecting and conveying our ideas; that inspire, educate, persuade, inform and can influence a change in human behaviour.
Why is Storytelling Essential
“Stories have a transformative power to allow us to see the world in a different way than we do if we… encounter it on our own. Stories are an entry point to understanding a different experience of the world.”
I recently had the opportunity to share and teach some storytelling skills and tips on crafting stories for impact for business leaders. A highlight for them was that storytelling is a value-added component to their product and service that solves a problem in a relatable way for their customers. Business leaders win the loyalty of their customers and lead change more effectively when they are storytellers, as they become more relatable and are likely to be better listeners.
Storytelling plays an integral role in how businesses connect with their customers and engage with them emotionally on a deeper level in delivering exceptional value. In sharing your story, be reminded there is beauty in simplicity (keep it simple), make your messaging memorable, thoughtful, informative and emotionally powerful for your audience. For business leaders to deliver their message, the medium is essential in taking their customers on a journey; that is experiential, emotional and engaging. By weaving information into thoughtful narratives that evoke emotional stimuli, you can bring your audience into a sensory experience of your organization’s collective history, purpose and your brand’s proposition and the unique benefit that it brings to your customers’ lifestyle. Storytelling helps your brand to stand out from a sea of sameness to one of significance and increase brand awareness for your customers.
Crafting Stories for Impact: Essential Elements of Storytelling
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”
One of the most impressive skills business leaders and entrepreneurs can have as effective communicators is storytelling. Stories are more engaging with your customers when they provide an opportunity for them to share in the journey with you and broaden their imagination through your experience of difference and exceptional experience. Here are five elements in crafting stories for impact:
- Emotional — Stories appeal to our emotions much better than figures or facts. When your story appeals to the customers, it inspires the individuals to (re) act.
- Experiential — Storytelling is a sensory experience of unique moments, magic and meanings that are relatable.
- Empathetic — When we tell stories with empathy and compassion, it encourages connection with our customers.
- Engaging — Stories that are authentic and personal helps to create a deeper connection and a sense of belonging.
- Memorable — When stories are compelling, credible, concise, creative and contextual, they help make the memory magical.
Your stories are a mosaic of you and your organization journey. Through storytelling, your customers take a guided organizational or cultural tour of your life and curate their understanding of your experiences, products or services. Through your stories, your customers can relate anecdotally to your organization and its history, your journey and your understanding related to our common humanity — trust, joy, love, happiness, kindness, pain, successes, failure, dreams and adventures. In connecting with your customer emotionally, you provoke candour and thoughts that is impactful long after your presentation is over.
In research conducted by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, stories are likely to be remembered 22 times more than facts alone. For business leaders, your customers will not always remember what you said and how you said it. However, what matters most to them, is how you made them feel — the experience. That will be their takeaway, so make it personal. Your customers are there to hear from you as the business leader. So, when you are crafting your stories remember, your authenticity matters, why you share the story and how you share it. Your vulnerabilities, challenges and triumphs can help you to connect with your audience.
“Facts and figures alone won’t influence decisions or move people to act, but well-crafted ….stories can and will. To form these … narratives, ….storytellers will lean on their human creativity, empathy and contextual understanding in ways that can’t be easily replicated by technology.”
Types of Storytelling
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
The way you tell your business story to your customer matters. To engage effectively with your customers, communicate clearly and captivate their attention quickly and intentionally, the medium is essential. In sharing your story, the following medium will help amplify your message:
Oral storytelling: One of the oldest storytelling forms is the spoken word. Members of ancient societies would captivate each other by sharing stories via song, chant, and the reciting of poetry. These oral traditions would be through generations. This form of storytelling could be a vehicle for any story.
Visual storytelling: Humans have told visual stories for tens of thousands of years, as this media represents a simple way to tell a good story. Ancient cave paintings depicted animals, figures with human characteristics, and real-life stories with themes of survival on cave walls. As society progressed, the evolution of storytelling has evolved along with it.
Written storytelling: As long as there have been written words, there have been written stories. As societies developed alphabets, oral and visual storytelling continues as written short stories and epics.
Digital storytelling: Technology is a powerful tool that has transformed the way that we tell stories. The rise of television, film, and radio has given great storytellers a platform than ever and has, in turn, led to the rise of new and innovative storytelling techniques.
In crafting your story, utilize the elements of storytelling along with the appropriate medium for your message to share your organization’s mission, vision, culture, and brand value. For business leaders, it is essential to harness the art of storytelling to define your service offering and curate solutions for your customers’ challenges to foster growth, customer retention, and profitability.