Storytelling and Communications

American poet Muriel Ruykeser once said, “The world is not made of atoms. The world is made of stories.”  If you are looking for a reaffirmation, here is what Steve Jobs says on storytelling – “The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.”

Storytelling has been in existence since long before. In fact, storytelling is an incredibly effective way to communicate because of three simple reasons:

  • People remember stories
  • People love stories
  • People connect with stories

A piece in The Huffington Post had social scientists point out that 65% of our conversations boil down to a story — narrative accounts with a beginning, middle, and end. In fact neuroscientists also claim that the human brain is ‘wired for a story.’  For a story to be compelling, here are a few key points that need to be kept in mind:

Find a good story – Apply the KISS (Keep it Simple, Silly) theory here – a simple story can cut across audience.

Find a good message – Apply the iPOD theory here – when Steve Jobs launched the iPod, he cut to the chase by distilling his message down to just five words: “1,000 songs in your pocket. This is exactly what the iPOD is all about. (I call it the iPOD theory)- The theory is all about identifying key messages.

Find a good beginning – Apply the HOOK theory – hook the audience at the very beginning with the protagonist and a relatable setting – protagonist could be the product or the service itself.

Find a strong narrative – Apply the DRAMA theory – introduce the conflict to create the drama and strengthen the narrative – could be the challenges or issues or roadblocks that could make an interesting plot.

Find an apt conclusion – Apply the EMOTION theory- let the story end with an emotional connect- victory of the good over the bad!

While these tips appear simple, it is a fact that all of us remember ‘good’ stories. Stories delivered with passion live long. The art of storytelling in this digital era must also factor the element of responsiveness. People respond to stories on the social media almost instantaneously. These responses create almost instantaneous perceptions too and hence stories need to be carefully crafted in order to manage these perceptions. Clients expect a good communications professional to make those quick and agile decisions and tweak the storytelling to suit the audience and the medium.

Another important fact is the authenticity of the story. Stories cannot always be fabricated. They need to include an element of realism in them. Here, leaning on data becomes imperative.

Today, there are more stories than ever. So the challenge is to stand out from the clutter. For this it is critical to know your customer (KYC).  Irrespective of the medium used- be it digital or traditional forms of communication, content needs to reach the ‘right’ audience who are KYC compliant. Adapting to the audiences is imperative for effective storytelling. With shorter attention spans and discerning audiences, storytelling skills need to follow the 3’S – Simple, Strong and Sensible.

However, today, there is an influx of communication and everybody is talking. People are engaging in dialogues with brands and brands are also conversing with users. Storytelling is an effective tool that can create a recall. We all remember stories that are imaginative and anecdotal. Storytelling grabs the attention of the audience when it is dramatic and unpredictable too. Using analogies and metaphors in the narrative work well too.

Remember there are no formulae for a good story- just a few tips to keep the story simple and memorable- as everybody loves a good story!

Bhavna Singh
At OPPI Bhavna works on multi- stakeholder advocacy & communications programmes including Government, regulatory authorities, the pharma industry and the media. Her online campaigns; patient communication and comprehensive industry led publications have won recognitions both in India and globally.

A recipient of many awards, Bhavna was most recently named among the 40 under Forty- Class of 207 by Reputation Today. OPPI’s 50 years commemorative publication – 'The Colour of White' received the Asia Pacific Communications Awards, 2017, under the publication category. Bhavna has also been recognised by World Global Diversity & Inclusion Congress and World HRD Congress as Global Diversity & Inclusion Leader -2017 and is a winner of BAM Award for using Innovative Media Vehicles in healthcare Communications- 2017.

Her key competencies include Brand Communications & Public Relations. She takes to writing as an important medium for communicating her thoughts. Gender diversity is an issue that she feels strongly about and has written and spoken about this at various public platforms.

1 Comment on "Storytelling and Communications"

  1. Great storytelling! Well written and a fabulous read.

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