“Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.”
Don’t mistake storytelling as just another buzzword. Storytelling has been around since, well, the dawn of man, but it has continuously slipped on and off the business/nonprofit radar since marketing became a thing. Snow puts it best when he says, “It’s always coming out of the buzzword pile because, at the end of the day, it’s a timeless skill. Stories have been an essential driver of change throughout human history. For good and for ill.”
With that said, why is storytelling so important for businesses and nonprofits? Here’s why:
Stories engage emotions
As Billee Howard explains for Forbes, stories fuel emotional engagement. And in today’s age of the brand experience, emotional engagement is proving to be critical to achieving objectives and high-impact results.
Persuasion is at the centre of a business. Organizations must convince customers to buy products and services, employees to support organizational policies and strategies, investors to buy stock, and partners to sign new deals.
As Bronwyn Fryer notes for Harvard Business Review, there are two ways to persuade people. The first is by using conventional rhetoric, which is what most executives are trained in. For example, a PowerPoint presentation can be used to present an organization’s vision, challenges and strategy. A case is built by highlighting statistics, facts and quotes from authorities. But Fryer goes on to highlight the two problems with conventional rhetoric:
“First, the people you’re talking to have their own set of authorities, statistics, and experiences. While you’re trying to persuade them, they are arguing with you in their heads. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.”
But when organization’s unite an idea with an emotion through compelling storytelling, effective persuasion can be achieved.
Storytelling is key in our hypermediated world
As Snow notes, storytelling is becoming essential, as ubiquitous publishing and sharing tools transform our digital lives.
“It’s no longer a luxury afforded to the wealthy ruling class or the companies who happen to own printing presses and delivery trucks. And as we spend increasing amounts of time consuming content by the streamful, storytelling is a skill that every business — and individual — will need to master.”
Social media has made storytelling essential
Snow also points out that social media has made us comfortable having conversations with companies. Businesses are more than willing to include their content in our Facebook streams, next to pictures of our loved ones, baby news from our friends or that latest cat video.
“As the majority of corporations start thinking of themselves as publishers, the defining characteristic among the successful ones will be the ability to not just spew content, but to craft compelling stories,” Snow says.
All of this points to the fact that storytelling is key to an organization’s strategy, be it its business strategy or content strategy. So, how can organization’s improve their storytelling? Here are some great links:
- Business Storytelling: Using Stories to Inspire
- Storytelling for Nonprofits: How to Present Stories That Attract Donors, Win Support, and Raise Money
- You Have 6 Nonprofit Story Types to Tell
- The Storytelling Non-Profit: Founded in 2012 to help not-for-profit organizations articulate their impact to donors
- StoryCenter: A non-profit that supports organizations with digital storytelling and other forms of digital media production
To wrap up, let me leave you with some great examples of storytelling: