The Purpose of Storytelling in Business
Stories bring people together and they're a great way to build trust for an organization. The ability to strike an emotional connection with your audience is a powerful tool that you should be using today.
1. Stories Engage Your Audience
Numbers do matter, but they mean a lot more when built on the basis of a story. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes - would you want to sit there while someone throws numbers and data at you?
A Nielsen study revealed that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than facts alone. The brain processes images 60 times faster compared to words and when we read data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read stories, every part of the brain we’d use if we experienced the story becomes activated as well.
So what does this mean? It suggests we’re likely to remember stories rather than hard facts. There’s a clear beginning and end which can keep the audience hooked throughout, rather than risking them zoning out and losing interest when drowning in analytics.
2. Create a Human Connection
If your organization has come up with a new idea, it’s likely there’s a story behind it. Whatever the motivation is, use that to provide some context to listeners. If the idea has been created to solve a problem, tell the story of how it helped you and make sure the story is relatable to the audience using real-life situations.
Using storytelling like this helps audiences connect with you so they trust you. When you come across as human and not force numbers their way, you’ll seem more trustworthy - especially if the storytelling is relatable as it becomes more memorable. If the audience can see themselves as the ‘character’ in your story or realize it relates to them, they won’t forget your business easily.
Steve Jobs was pretty good at this. Just look at his keynote when he introduced the iPhone back in 2007. After running down the timeline of Apple products to show how far the company has come, he touched on one crucial aspect of the audience’s pain points.
One device to listen to music on, a mobile device and another to browse the internet. He told the story of how irritating it can be to carry three of these around - but the iPhone has it all. It’s a real-life situation that people faced and Apple had the answer.
3. Stories Are More Memorable Than Numbers
Research by Forbes has demonstrated that delivering messages via stories can be 22 times more memorable than relying on facts. That’s because with stories, you have something to tell. There’s a narrative arc, emotional moments, suspense and climax that your organization can benefit from.
Let’s say you’re delivering a presentation for your organization or speaking at a conference. Telling a story is a great way to engage the audience and also provide a nice break with something they’ll remember - even if they forget everything else.
Just look at Bill Gates’ Ted Talk in 2009. The Founder of Microsoft delivered a speech on the issues of malaria filled with statistics. That’s fine - it delivered the message and the severity of the problem.
But when you consider that he opened a jar of swarming mosquitoes in the presentation room to deliver his point, what do you think the audience remembered when they left? Would it be the numbers or the memorable demonstration and story he told?
4. Emotionally Connect People to Create Loyalty
As engaging as stories can be for organizations, the best ones are those that evoke emotional reactions. If you tell a story that people genuinely connect with and relate to, it’s more likely they’ll believe in you. Some of the best storytelling in business comes from mistakes made, failures and past business struggles.
Highlighting these makes organizations come across as normal. Audiences can relate to the protagonist as they too might understand what it feels like to fail and understand what went into turning the situation around. Some of the world’s biggest businesses have founders that tell emotional stories, such as Jack Ma - the founder of Alibaba.
In an interview in 2015, he told his story about applying for a job at KFC with 23 other people. The KFC store hired 23 of the 24, with Ma being the only person that wasn’t brought on. He went on to tell the story of how dozens of schools rejected him, how Harvard rejected him 10 times and how he was also rejected from becoming a police officer.
Discussing one failure after another makes the audience empathize with him, even if he is worth upwards of $51.5 billion today. His story is relatable, it evokes emotion and is captivating to keep the audience engaged.
5. Humanizing a Organization = Increased Profits
Obviously, this isn’t a guaranteed formula that always works for every organization but it has proven so in the past. You’ll notice that the most successful organizations have thoughtful and deep stories behind them with a bigger purpose and meaning to what they do.
If your organization has a vision that audiences believe in and buy into, it’s more likely that you’ll be successful. It’s no secret that people want to buy from empathetic organizations. The Global Empathy Index highlighted that the organizations near the top (meaning they were the most empathetic) were also the fastest growing and most profitable in the world.
The top 10 organizations also generated 50% more income. It shows how valuable storytelling can be. Show your personality and humanity and avoid being faceless and disconnected from your audience.
You can even use body language to convey a powerful message. Discover why body language is important in communication.
6. Storytelling Offers a Competitive Advantage
For organizations, it’s too easy to get lost in all of the noise. Every organization shares content with their audiences, but that can get a little overwhelming. The fact is, decision-making is more emotional than it is logical so the ability to tell a good story is essential if you want to stand out and create a strong brand.
Tell a remarkable story and you can win over your audience. It applies to organizations of any size, including the public and third sector. Researchers Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker proved this theory by showcasing the true power of storytelling.
They listed insignificant objects on eBay with a twist. The objects featured heartfelt, well-written and purposeful short stories in the descriptions. After buying these items in a garage sale for around $1.50 each, they resold them for nearly $8,000. That’s how powerful smart storytelling can be.
Find out how you can use storytelling within business to emotionally connect with your audience.
7. Create Compelling Marketing Campaigns
Whether they’re heart-wrenching or hilarious, lots of organizations are now using the power of storytelling to build relationships with their audience. This relates to the emotional connection aspect with studies showing that making an emotional connection is more important than customer satisfaction.
Today, marketing campaigns need to move away from cheap tactics and focus on storytelling. Honey Bunches of Oats pulled on the heartstrings by inviting real employees to participate in the campaign and share their endearing qualities. You can sense the passion in their stories and it makes the business more memorable.
Airbnb also selected an emotional story to tell in relation to the 25th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall with the narrative of a father reuniting with one of the guards at the opposing border.
These are some of the many compelling marketing campaigns organizations have run with storytelling at their heart.
Public sector leaders have bigger challenges than just selling products. They must obtain resources by gaining support from politicians, public opinion and other invested institutions. Leaders need to tell the story of the public value they intend to create to gain buy-in from stakeholders.
Now you know how many people invest in a good story, book your place on our Storytelling to Influence: Speaking and Presenting course to learn powerful techniques that will hook your audience in no time.