Most of us think that a story is fictional, something that doesn’t belong within the same realm as business deals and communications. We have multiple emails to send, meetings to attend, events to host, and reports to analyze. There isn’t time for fairytales!
It is a major error, though, to let this common misconception get in the way of catapulting a crucial business strategy forward. There is an art to storytelling, but it certainly doesn’t have to be fictitious.
Here’s why implementing storytelling in business communications is important.
There Is Scientific Weight Behind Storytelling
Per Paul J. Zak (a neuroeconomist who researches organizations and consumer decisions):
“…findings on the neurobiology of storytelling are relevant to business settings. For example, my experiments show that character-driven stories with emotional content result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later. In terms of making impact, this blows the standard PowerPoint presentation to bits.”
How does this work? When a story is delivered to audience members or readers, oxytocin is released and creates feelings of kindness and empathy. This can motivate someone to act cooperatively. If people want to cooperate, they will remember the story that’s delivered around the facts, not the facts themselves.
Stories Provide Context and Relevance
When a narrator connects the dots explaining why information should be important to us, it’s more likely we will tune in and remember what is being said.
There’s a reason why advertisements with a storyline have more impact. When we see a sick child the same age as ours struggling with cancer, we’re more inclined to donate. When we learn how a device was created out of nothing more than simple cords and conductors that we likely have in our hall closet, we become more interested in learning how to use it.
By implementing storylines about a product, you give customers a context for how and why they should use your product without telling them to use it. When you’re on a job interview, rather than simply reciting your skills, tell your interviewer a story about how and why you relate to their company’s narrative.
When stories are relatable to us, we empathize, act, and remember them.
Storytelling Is Entertaining and Engaging
Implementing storytelling into your business communications makes your writing more engaging and less boring. Let’s be honest: no matter what you do and who you do it for, there is industry-related jargon and a never-ending list of acronyms available to use. When you’re sending out multiple status updates and reports every week, it’s easy to use these language shortcuts as a crutch.
Using these shortcuts in your communications, however, shows you’re not only taking it for granted that your audience understands what you’re talking about, but also means you’re not delivering relevant messages. And if you aren’t making your message relevant, why would someone feel compelled to heed your call to action?
If you want to engage your colleagues in a project you’re working on, tell them a story about how you got started on it and how it’s relevant to them. If you want your customers to sign up for a membership, create a narrative about a day in the life of a current member and how being a member impacts them and their business.
It is important to note that engaging audiences in a business setting should never involve embellishing facts or morphing communications into tired sales pitches. However, you can be a little more lenient when speaking to colleagues and potential clients.
You aren’t a robot; if you talk to people as if you are, your messages will certainly come across as inauthentic and uninspired. But if you use storytelling in your communications, you can get important information across in more exciting ways.