Storytelling is a powerful communication tool. The wisdom of the ages has been preserved because it was handed down the generations through myths legends, fables and parables. If it can survive thousands of years, then imagine what it can, right now, for your business.
Neurologically we’re wired for narratives; it’s how our brains work. Stories connect people to each other because of the resonance they create – we identify with stories and think “yes that sounds like me too.”
Claire Taylor is a a writer, storyteller, business consultant and co-founder of The Story Mill, an innovative organisation that encourages businesses to engage in real conversations using the art of storytelling. She is also author of The Tao of Storytelling and says there are five key areas where storytelling can work well to enhance the success of your business communications:
1. Every brand needs a lapel-grabbing narrative
There is a hunger for real stories that has been fuelled by a decade of news coverage showing that all is not what it seems. There is a dearth of trust between consumers and the corporate enterprises that sell to them. To close that trust gap businesses need to tell the real stories behind their brands.
Authentic brand stories need not only to tell the truth they must also adhere to the spirit of the truth. Consumers are inspired to hear stories such as the company’s passion for their brands, their concern for consumers’ wellbeing, their sustainability and social responsibility initiatives.
2. Effective teams comprise individuals with integrated stories
Teams are made up of individuals each with their unique set of stories. At the extremes teams can be cacophonous or harmonious and neither is ideal. The art of storytelling can be used to identify sources of discontent and then to create a new empowering team story that aligns people. That in turn builds the energy, motivation and determination that ultimately fuels success.
3. Company culture reflects the harvest of stories on its grapevine
Large scale mergers, de-mergers or other changes to business structures are commonplace. When these occur it isn’t enough simply to integrate business systems, the people also need to be integrated. We are storytelling creatures and everyone has a story about every situation that they are in.
People’s stories are windows into their belief systems. In any organisation there are as many stories about what’s going on as there are people. When there is an aligned culture within the organisation the stories that people inside the organisation believe and tell are coherent and that creates a powerful synergy to catapult the business forward.
4. Storytelling is the torch that illuminates a leader’s vision
Studies have shown that a well-told story, with a traditional narrative arc, takes people on a journey, stimulates their emotions, causes the release of neurotransmitters in their brain and makes it more likely that they will take action.
The story or stories that are told might be true personal stories, anecdotes from industry or markets, traditional myths or legends that extol the message, or a myth that you craft yourself to engage and stimulate your audience.
5. Personal stories resonate universally
The most powerful use of storytelling by far, is to tell a personal tale with a moral or a learning that communicates your message. The phenomenal popularity of the brand TED is a testament to the power of personal storytelling to spread ideas.
The more personal a story you tell the more it is likely to resonate universally. That’s because our personal stories usually tap into fundamental life themes. So while you might balk at the idea of sharing a story from your personal life it may enable you to connect with your audience and communicate in a deep and memorable way.
Every business problem has at its heart a communication conundrum. Well used, storytelling is mind-bogglingly powerful at bringing clarity to every area of business communications whether they are customer-facing, such as in branding and corporate communications, or internal such as in leadership, cultural change, team dynamics and innovation.