Principles of Storytelling in Communications

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Companies that want to do better with marketing to employees and customers need to leverage strong narratives as tools for communicating their vision and reason to exist. The founder’s story—a particularly important part of communications strategy—often answers the “why” behind a company’s existence. The content that becomes part of marketing campaigns needs to be found on stories to be relevant and engaging. Here, we discuss a few principles for effective storytelling for company communications.

A Credible Character

Characters are central to narratives. From a marketing perspective, characters need to closely match the personas of buyers or audience. Personas are built around the core personality traits, as well as the characteristics and habits, of a typical representative audience member. An example of a persona for a women’s luxury fashion brand could be Sally, a woman in her forties, married to a wealthy businessman, who has enjoyed a life of considerable comfort and luxury, never having had to work a day in her life, who keeps up-to-date with the latest designer bags or jewellery items by her coveted brands and selects the most impressive of items to build her wardrobe and accessories. It is important to keep the characters as close to reality as possible, so they are believable and relatable to the audience members.

Clear Beginning, Middle and End

Stories need to have a clear beginning, middle and end to be impactful. Those that tread a confused progression should be kept out of internal and external marketing campaigns. The beginning needs a hook that draws one in.

Consider this beginning for a hypothetical bed bug treatment, Company X: “Defeated, Adam and Sara felt compelled to give in to the onslaught of the bed bugs in their beloved house, one they had only bought a few months back!” Now this one: “Adam and Sara tried multiple treatments for the bed bug infestation but none of them got rid of the problem.” For sure, the first one does a better job of setting up an interesting premise.

For the middle part, be sure to advance the story to a slightly more complicated situation where further tension or conflict appears. So for Adam and Sara’s story, a middle part could be something like: “They had exhausted most of their savings on the treatments and the stench of the insecticides made living in the house torturous, not to downplay the effect of nighttime assault of the bugs that had left them sleepless with clusters of itchy bitemarks all over their bodies.”

For the end part, be sure to take them to a climax and then present the resolution. Again, going back to Adam and Sara’s story:

“Sara couldn’t take it anymore and she sobbed uncontrollably, huddled in an armchair. Her phone rang and she rambled her situation to her overly concerned mother. Yes, mothers are always saviours indeed. She informed her of Company X that her neighbour with the bug problem had told her about, and how their heat treatments killed the entire bed bug populations in a matter of a week.”

Make It Personal & Keep It Real

Stories need to connect with the audience. Hence, they need to be personal and real, so that a reader can find their life, or some aspect of it, reflected in them. The effect of this is that they would want to ponder over them, comment on them, and share them. On the other hand, fanciful or overly exaggerated narratives will be hard to relate to. We can take the example of Apple’s iconic campaigns centred on the tagline “Think Different.” Although they featured well-known world personalities, the choice of words in the narrative was kept authentic and pulled on the aspirations of the audience members to belong in such a coveted group of visionaries, achievers and thinkers, proposing the ownership of a MacBook as a way to do so.

Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer

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