What is storytelling and how to use it
Storytelling: The Art of Telling a Story
Storytelling is the art of telling a story. You might already be familiar with this well-known term, but it’s important to understand that this art is not something new.
We are made of stories, and this is what has led us to narrate them for thousands of years. Storytelling is found in literature, comics, and cinema, but also in the stories we tell others every day. Have you ever wondered where the myths and legends we know come from? Or why the myths and legends we still tell today have withstood the test of time? The way these stories have connected with people plays a big role in why. In fact, our brain receives different stimuli when learning something through stories because stories connect with our emotional side.
The Importance of Storytelling in Communication
Think about it, everyone has great stories to tell. However, you might wonder why it is important for your brand to use storytelling. Here are some reasons:
- Awakening Emotions. Think for a moment about a recent advertisement you saw and liked. It’s very likely that the brand managed to connect with you because it touched your most primal emotions. It may have inspired you, impacted you, or made you laugh. A brand that can awaken emotions through the power of storytelling is achieving a major communication goal: being remembered.
- Conveying the Essence of the Brand. When a brand tells a good story, what it’s really doing is connecting with its audience through its core values. It’s important that the story we tell is consistent with the company’s mission and vision to help it position itself.
- Inspiring Our Audience. Remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “I have a dream”? These were the words he used more than 50 years ago in his famous speech to talk about his desire for racial equality. You likely also recall the wisdom Steve Jobs shared in his speech to Stanford University students, the acclaimed quote “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” These are two examples of how a powerful story can inspire an entire generation and remain memorable over time.
- Humanizing to Connect with Our Audience. Who is behind your audience? A group of people. And who is behind the brands posting these messages? A team of people. Ultimately, storytelling connects people’s stories. When a brand tells a good story, it easily connects with its audience by showing transparency and authenticity. Sometimes, what we need to achieve this connection is to show that we are human in our communication.”
The 4 Elements of Storytelling
Now you know what storytelling is. But it’s more than just telling a story, otherwise, anyone could write a best-selling novel. To tell a good story, you usually need to include 4 elements:
- A Character
- A Problem
- An Action
- A Solution.
Let’s delve a little deeper into each of these.
Every story needs a main character with a problem. Why? Because if someone is happy, there really isn’t a story. Take Wende, for example. She wasn’t happy because she couldn’t memorize the planets of the solar system. That was her story’s problem. Next, you need action. Because a main character who does nothing to solve their problem isn’t fun to read about. In my example, Wende asked her teacher for help. The teacher told her a story, which made it easier for her to remember the planets. Thus, the story was the solution.
Why Use Storytelling
Using storytelling in your blog posts will make, if done well, your post more engaging. Your post will become something people will want to read. In other words, stories increase your audience’s attention. But they will also help you communicate your message clearly. My story about Alice (see screenshot below) is written to help people understand the importance of a clean site structure, which can be a difficult topic to grasp.
Most importantly, however, people remember stories. This means that if you use storytelling, people will also remember the message of your post or even your brand. You might even inspire people to take action, like cleaning up their website or starting to use storytelling in their blog posts and presentations.
How to Master the Art of Storytelling
- Know Your Audience. You have a story to tell, but to whom? It’s important that you truly understand your target audience to know what interests them, what inspires them, or even what concerns them. Truly knowing your audience will help your brand create a lasting connection.
- Have a Purpose. Have you ever wondered why you want to tell this story? What do you hope to achieve by sharing it with your audience? Raising awareness, conveying your values, mobilizing… The answer to these questions will be the purpose of your storytelling.
- Define a Key Message. There are stories that last only a few seconds and others that would take a lifetime to tell. Regardless of the length of the story your brand wants to tell, you must understand that you need to convey a key message. To find it, think about the phrase you would like your audience to remember. There you have it.
- Choose a Channel and Format. A video on social media, a blog post, an interactive presentation, a dossier, an ebook… There are as many possibilities as there are stories to tell. Once you define the story you want to tell, you can choose the appropriate channel to convey it and give it the perfect format. Remember, creativity knows no bounds.
- Share the Story. Ready? It’s time for your story to be shared with the world. The channel and format you’ve chosen will be essential.
5 Effective Techniques for Storytelling
According to research by a Stanford University professor, stories are the most effective way to deliver data. When his students listened to a speech that included stories and facts, 63% remembered the stories, and only 5% remembered individual statistics. This fact demonstrates the supreme power of storytelling. Discover how to further increase its effectiveness in this section.
1. Show What Happens and Use Scene-by-Scene Construction.
This tactic is most effective in written narration. Instead of talking about events, you should describe them. Transport the audience to the scene and make them hear and feel what your characters do. This can help immerse your readers in your story, engage them, and influence their perceptions. Avoid skipping some scenes and narrating them later. Remember, it is always better to show something than to assert the fact of an event.
2. Make the Story Dynamic and Relatable.
To engage the audience, you must evoke emotions and feelings that are easy to understand. Don’t be afraid to show your weaknesses or those of the brand and the ways you overcome them. Such elements make your narration more personal and particularly captivating. However, avoid irrelevant details that do not drive the plot or influence your characters to keep consumers’ attention all the time.
3. Define a Hero and an Enemy.
Strong characters are one of the most important elements of a story. People always need someone to support and someone to despise. Sometimes, the bad characters can be things, natural phenomena, or events that prevent the positive ones from achieving their goals. The climax of the story is the biggest fight between the enemy and the hero.
4. Create a Sense of Suspense and Add Unexpected Events.
This is also about continuous tensions that keep the readers’ or listeners’ attention. You can create a non-linear story and start from the central action or the climax to hook the audience at once. Add surprises to your plot that maintain intense conflict, make the audience empathize with the characters, and create a memorable story.
5. Enhance Your Dialogues.
It is one of the most challenging parts of writing stories. Keep in mind that your characters should sound realistic and individual and remain consistent in their voices and communication styles. Additionally, do not use dialogues if they do not serve plot development. Some changes in the characters’ personalities or actions should occur after each communication.
Remember these techniques to create strong stories that you can use in your company’s blogs, on social media, or during promotional campaigns. In the next section, we provide examples of brands that used effective storytelling to boost their business.
Juan Esteban Yepes