Storytelling: How to be heard in the noisy world
By Varghese M Thomas,
What makes a person interesting? It is helpful to know the person’s name, age, gender, nationality and level of education. However, it is the experiences, ideas, hopes, aspirations, dreams, beliefs, opinions and beliefs that breathe life into a person, making them interesting. We relate to their stories and the environment in which they live. These bonds create bonds, friendships, and sometimes a romance that lasts a lifetime. Let’s face it; more people can remember and relate to a good story than those who can remember and interpret numbers! And, while stories connect people, they can also connect with brands, products, services, and business goals. When done correctly, they can be a business differentiator.
Telling stories has been at the heart of human history. The Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and the Buddha’s Tales are some classic examples of enduring tales that have been repeated over the centuries. Our DNA is designed to listen to stories that inform, entertain, inspire, motivate and bind us. That’s why a relatable story ensures that our message has an impact. They invite to be remembered easily, build confidence and trigger desired actions.
As public relations professionals, we instinctively know that the difference between presenting cold facts and warm stories is glaring. However, the researchers quantify the difference. Using the Wason selection test (based on hypothetico-deductive reasoning), the researchers showed that less than 10% can solve a logical puzzle. This number jumps to 70-90% to resolve it when presented as a social contract or as a fairly familiar situation explained descriptively.
While the Wason screening test results are impressive and will make professionals sit down and take note, these are still cold numbers for most people. They do not leave a memorable impact on the ordinary reader. We have to tell a juicy story here, preferably one that reflects the trends that mark us as humans and make us human. So, without further ado, here’s a story that will undoubtedly put a smile on your face: In a fascinating 2012 experiment called Significant Objects, researchers did something terribly simple. They used e-bay to auction off thrift store products purchased for $ 1.25 apiece using purpose-written short stories around these items by 200 contributing writers. The stories are original, hilarious, compelling and memorable. They make fascinating reading. The result on buyers was predictable. For example, a $ 1.49 divination device was sold for $ 56; a 25 egg whisk sold for $ 30. For the curious, the literary and economic experience is also available in the form of a book.
Certainly, the experience of significant objects can be considered manipulative. Handling is absolutely not recommended here for PR professionals. The point of experience is more important. It demonstrates the importance of storytelling and how it can be an effective way to be heard in a noisy world and to attract desired actions from the target group.
Storytelling is an important factor in guiding decisions, forming impressions and creating distinguished propositions. Stories grab attention, hold emotions, and build credibility. However, the best storytelling aims to humanize situations and circumstances, making them understandable and easy to follow.
Don’t create complicated stories. Don’t choose smart endings. Use storytelling to show value and transfer your beliefs to your target group. Use it to build empathy, build relationships, allay fear, and bring communities together.
There are several ways to approach storytelling. The easiest way is to build them through people, places, plot, and purpose. These are often referred to as the 4Ps of storytelling. I will add a 5th P: Passion. Tell stories with passion and bring them to life. For the most part, 5Ps are all you need to get your voice heard. As author Jon Westenberg said, “storytelling is the greatest technology humans have ever created.” Steve Jobs once said, “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda for an entire generation to come. As public relations professionals, never lose sight of the “goal”. Make sense of your stories while using facts to make them fly.
We don’t have to look far to see how well-crafted stories can be of a competitive advantage. Airbnb uses them on a daily basis to develop its business. They tell stories about places – following Tippu Sultan in Mysore, learning to bake French macarons in Paris, soaking up the spectacular views of Uva Mira Mountain vineyard in Cape Town and the thrill of horseback riding in the Atlas Mountains. from Marrakech. These stories help us decide where to go, which host family to book, and how much to pay. These stories are larger than life, larger than the charms of luxury hotels with floor-to-ceiling windows and hot tubs. Today, examples of brands telling memorable stories abound and we need to learn from them.
Storytelling can be, and is, an important weapon in the arsenal of public relations practitioners. Simple stories can help grab attention, connect with customers and employees, boost trust, build loyalty, set the record straight for products and brands, and most importantly, ensure that brands and products are standing out at a time when markets are confusing people with inconsistent messages.
(The author is Vice President – Communications, TVS Motors. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)