Storytelling – It’s the way you tell ’em

Cyril Connolly wrote that “Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism [is] what will be grasped at once.”

While storytelling is the idea du jour, we need to be clear that it is the journalistic approach we should be taking when framing the stories we tell in business.  This is why at Incite we focus so much energy on getting the story right in our work; so that it can be instantly grasped, understood and acted upon.

But there is a similarity between journalistic and literary storytelling that is easily overlooked:  creating the right emotional response.  Even supposedly fact-based journalism has the potential to inform us, capture our emotions and spark action.  It was Michael Buerk’s report from Ethiopia that sparked Geldof and Ure’s Band Aid.   More recently, we’ve seen grassroots social campaigns triggered by journalism from The Jungle in Calais and Everyday Sexism to name just two.

So while our everyday work doesn’t seek this seismic emotional response, nevertheless we risk missing an opportunity for action if we don’t think about emotion as well as information when we tell our clients our ‘business stories’.

This was a key point that Anthony (Tas) Tasgal focused on when he visited us recently to talk about his book, The Storytelling Book.   One of the most powerful take-outs was the recognition that story trumps information because it transforms information into emotion.  And it is emotion that makes us act.

Tas spoke about focusing on “massaging over messaging”.  Basically, we need to think not just about the story we tell but how we tell it.  We need to focus on the emotional needs of clients in the room, not just their ‘information needs’.  We should think more about how we can help them channel their emotional responses to the information we’re sharing into action.

We have successfully used all sorts of tools to do this in the past from de Bono’s six thinking hats, to vox pops and live interviews, analogies and props.  But we can’t rest on our laurels.  As we understand more and more about behavioural science and the role of emotion – always running in the background and never switched off, no matter how rational we like to imagine ourselves in business – we need to keep pushing for better storytelling.  That’s why we’re looking for inspiration and ideas to help us, from the stunning animations of the BBC’s Reith Lectures to TED talks.

We are looking for different, more emotive and inspiring ways to help people make better use of the stories we tell.  If you’ve seen something you think makes learning unignorable, please share it with us.