Friday, May 7, 2010

Storytelling Wins

When I was in university and had to memorize hundreds of thousands of biological terms (I was in premed before I saw the marketing light), I used a very simple memory device... tell a story with the facts. By creating a story -- wildly unrelated to the facts I was memorizing -- I was able to contain about 95% of my test material. Great strategy for my grade point average.
My daughter, pulling-your-hair frustrated with math, went to her older brother to understand long division. He, being much older and wiser, patiently told her a story about Mr. Denominator and Mrs. Numerator. From a frustrated fifth grader, she completed a degree in nursing where math plays a big part in her training!
So why are marketers still reeling off a list of benefit statements?
When we first met Royal Homes, an innovative, module home builder, their advertising was focused on the technical advantages of modular building. While there are many interesting advantages of modular building, especially in a Canadian climate, the lack of "story" behind the information made their messaging unmemorable. We were able to move their message to a story. The audience began to understand the Royal Homes difference because they could relate to the story.
Storytelling is essential for non-profit organizations. Benefit statements and program descriptions do not inspire, stories do. We all respond to stories -- that's why television dramas and movies capture hours of attention each week. That's why Harlequin is so successful.
Skilled storytellers are more than skilled writers. They have an inherent gift for understanding the story within information. They have an aptitude for understanding the "why" rather than just the who and how.
Invest in a skilled storytelling.... communicate with impact!