I recently had an interesting exchange with a friend of mine who is an esteemed behavioural psychologist. We came to the conclusion that we both deal in the human condition; she seeks to understand the human complexities in order to cure and alleviate suffering, while I on the other hand seek to exploit, motivate and fill that proverbial black hole with whatever my client is selling.
We are both fascinated by the human condition and couldn’t do what we do if we didn’t really like people, as well as have an endless curiosity. However, one difference stood out between our different approaches to understanding the human psyche and that was our methods of research. While psychology is focused on the individual, storytelling is based on the collective. Her approach is one-on-one and is based primarily on listening. Our approach is based on an accumulation of real-life experiences and observations. We need to get intimate with different tribes so our stories will resonate with them and be authentic. this is the only way to be relevant and in context. It is the only way to gain trust.
Storytelling is about understanding the lives, aspirations and concerns of the people who you hope to attract. .
What happened to curiousity?
According to Andrew D. Huberman, an American neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, from an evolutionary standpoint, humans are programmed to lose their neuro-plasticity at the age of 35, right around the birth of their last child. Neuro-plasticity is our ability to absorb knowledge and from an evolutionary perspective, once you’ve pro-created, you’ve done your part. Little could evolution guess that there would come a day when we would live longer, have more dispensable income and actually want to continue absorbing.
As a storyteller, I feel compelled to continue maintaining my curiosity and continue sampling as much of the human experience spectrum. It inspires me and keeps me informed and up to date. Without this, I could no longer purport to communicate with the audiences which I claim to understand.
However, as storytelling becomes more formulaic, political correctness more stifling and marketing more data driven, it appears on the surface there’s less of a need to tell authentic stories. Or is it just on the surface?
What makes a good story?
A story is an idea. It is the only way to show value, to show a new way of doing things for your customer and your stakeholders. Storytelling is about understanding your customer’s life and how you are about to make it better, much better.
A story is not just about the facts, it’s a gut feeling you want to give your customer, a feeling as well as a real solution.
Storytelling starts with your product or service but has to also continue to your marketing and your on-going conversation with your customers throughout your different channels.
Storytelling needs to be human. It needs to be transparent and real. The first thing in storytelling is telling why you even thought of creating your business in the first place. If you introduce new product and new services, start by creating context and why you care about this problem. This will create empathy and your customers will also start caring about you.
Your story isn’t a campaign. It’s your DNA. Your DNA has to be consistent across all platforms and channels; your ads, website, customer service, employees. You need to keep your story real. People can smell bullshit. People love sincerity and authenticity.
What your story needs
Storytelling requires a strategy. You need to map out your clients, gain a deeper understanding as to what makes them tick. You need to understand your competitive landscape and you need to understand the risks and rewards for every story / narrative you may choose.
Storytelling is not copywriting. Storytelling is not design. Storytelling is not PR. Storytelling is not advertising.
Storytelling is composing a wonderful piece of music and conducting a very complex orchestra with multiple objectives and balancing between your business needs and your customer’s wants.
No one will ever tell you that you have a story to tell. You need to know that yourself. Storytellers can only help you tell a good story.