Why stories matter
When I was nine I swallowed a marble at school. It involved a trip to hospital and a phone call to a startled mother who demanded of the school receptionist, “was it a Bonker?”. Bonkers were especially large marbles - no wonder my mum was concerned. It wasn’t, but it was an exciting event anyway that I wrote about my experience. My dad then photocopied it at work and sent off copies to great aunts and uncles around the country.
Whether writing stories and entertaining distant family members, or reading such delights as Professor Branestawm, I’ve been a lover of stories since a young age, as are most of us.
Humans have told stories for thousands of years. Sitting around the fire, stories were used to communicate knowledge and information, keeping us safe and creating community. These days the campfire has been replaced with the pub, the office and the coffee table. We’re sucked into Netflix docudramas and the cinema is still thriving.
When we hear a good story it does things to our brains. Oxytocin is generated. It’s the chemical that is associated with empathy, key to fostering strong relationships. It also releases cortisol, which helps us make memories, and dopamine which keeps us engaged.
It all means that if you want your points to be memorable, and if you’d like consumers to engage and relate to your product then there’s no better way to do it than with story.
Whether we’re a film-maker, a start-up founder, a marketer - or even as I was, a nine-year-old child - all we want to achieve is that engagement, that belief in what we’re talking about. We want our audience to buy-in to what we’re doing, be that a film, a new product or a funny story about a not-so-large marble. We can all leverage the power of storytelling in our lives.
Stories sit at the heart of every product or business idea. Shine a light on your origin story to create an emotional engagement between your brand and your audience. Talking about the strong purpose that beats at the heart of your organisation magnetises the marketplace. In an abundant market sharing customer stories about how you solve their headaches brings your proposition to life. Similarly, if your product or service feels intangible: stories make it real.
And if you’re a business leader looking to be more authentic, telling your back story - and revealing any struggles or vulnerability along the way - can be a gamechanger for how you are perceived. It makes you relatable and approachable.
So how do you get started when you’re thinking about telling your story? Three things to consider:
Make your story human-centred. Your story needs real characters the audience can relate to. If it doesn’t have people in it, it’s not a story.
Keep it simple - following a three-act structure of beginning, middle and end is a good start. Often in the middle is a point of tension - a problem that’s overcome. When there’s a struggle, it helps an audience care about the hero and engage with the outcome.
Be open and transparent - don't airbrush out the bad bits.
Ian Sanders has recently given his Power of Story presentation to audiences such as Equifax in Leeds and Amway’s European marketing awayday in Germany (find out more).
“Ian has a lot of positive energy and he transported his passion for stories and storytelling in a great and engaging presentation. By using lots of examples he helped our diverse team gain a common understanding of the power of storytelling for businesses and brands. I loved how everyone afterwards started discussing what were good and bad examples of storytelling." Yvonne Hug, Head of Marketing Communication Europe & South Africa, Amway
“Ian delivered his engaging 'Power of Story' presentation to 100 of my employees at our annual talent forum in 2018. Ian brought the subject to life by sharing inspiring yet tangible examples from brands and businesses in the world today. Stories that our team could relate to and connect with. We all came away with an appreciation of the value of storytelling, seeing what a vital, meaningful and transformative purpose it can have. All of us at Black Sun now have renewed confidence in our work to use and tell stories to better effect. Working with Ian was both an emotive, thought provoking and invaluable experience.” Paul Edison, co-founder and communications director, Black Sun plc