Many years ago a friend told me about one of his early childhood memories. His mother had left the family home when he was about 4 years old and his younger brother was a few months past his second birthday. They were all devastated and needed to start figuring out how to live their lives in their new context; one that they hadn’t chosen. We’re talking over 50 years ago here, when a single Dad bringing up children was not a common sight or even one that the neighbours approved of regardless of how it had been created. Gossip over the fence was rife apparently and as my friend walked down the road he was constantly met with pitying glances and the odd ruffle of his hair as he walked by.
He told me that this ruffling of his hair became something of a comfort and he used to consciously seek it out. In his old world, gentle loving hugs were signature experiences with his mother. With her departure, so had physical comfort and reassurance departed too; however great his father was and became, naturally giving comfort in the form of hugs was not on his to do list. And so my friend found reasons to stroll down the street when the neighbours were out there chatting, simply to notch up extra ruffles.
So what image do you currently have in your head? Think about it.
For centuries storytelling has humanized connections with people, making strong and often emotional links between the vivid images and triggered memories that they can create and the people who are decoding this information regarding what it means for them.
The vast and ever increasing number of blogs, Twitter feeds, Instagram images and Facebook posts continually tell a story to the reader and are regularly interpreted and acted upon through their call to action- quizzes and competitions, polls, special offers, newsletter sign ups, donations and so on. The success of TED the global conferencing giant, is largely based on the skill of its guest presenters to tell great stories, stories that are humbling, non-judgemental, connective and often transformative in ways that feel somewhat within reach. Pitch perfect.
Used well, storytelling sells and it sells big, both in the commercial world and in the charity and voluntary sectors. When you share something that you learned from your personal experience, perhaps linked to key points in your life, those on the receiving end absorb elements of your story and can use it in a transformative and transactional way. Engage and you’re connected. Feelings trigger action. Engagement is key.
Stories can provide the bite size gems for others to share your experiences and to validate their own views and actions having heard yours. Think of the success of massive charitable events such as Comic Relief and Red Nose Day. It’s the harrowing stories and images that springboard the greatest reactions and action. Why is that? Again, it’s the power of the story itself, the story teller and the relevance to our own lives, sometimes because it describes the life we have, the life we desire or the life we are glad we don’t have. Brands know this and are becoming more impactful in their ability to connect with existing and potential customers through shared stories that connect with us in deep and often subconscious ways.
Try a genuine human story in your next pitch and engage powerfully.