Tips for your top line by marketing consultant Manjeet Sidhu
I love learning new things. Most people do. And with free resources like TheKhanAcademy.org getting support from powerful backers like Bill Gates, the opportunity for us to tap into interesting tutorials on any topic is endless. But there comes a point when new information is just too much information, especially if you’re busy serving clients and don’t have the time you need to feed your natural curiosity. Fortunately, technology has an answer for this too.
The “create rule” function on my Outlook Express is my new best friend. In a few key strokes I can take control of my day by filtering the information I want to review in order of priority – first priority incoming messages from clients, second priority incoming messages from business partners, third priority incoming messages for new business development and fourth, well, all the interesting news feeds I’m signed up to but don’t actually get a chance to read (unless the sender has been savvy enough to simultaneously Tweet the message to my phone or update their LinkedIn to my daily digest for me to skim at a glance).
But if everyone’s time is equally well guarded how can business owners and managers get their marketing communications past rival distractions and in front of their target audiences? The new buzz word in marketing circles is corporate storytelling. Visit any online marketing forum set up anywhere in the world and this is what the industry is currently talking about – the conversation even made it to Forbes.com in June 2012.
Although new to the sector (kind of, narrative has been used in advertising for years), storytelling is actually an ancient art exclusive to man and born out of the need for our brains to easily process new data, store the useful bits and recall whenever required i.e. the next time we’re out fighting metaphorical dragons and saving damsels in distress. According to Princeton University, stories engage more of the brain while they’re being consumed and if articulated well, even have the power to synchronise the brain of the storyteller with the listener to cause neural coupling. Our brains, it appears, are hardwired for a good yarn.
For those in touch with their creative side, all this makes perfect sense. For everyone else, stories for grownups and grownups involved in business in particular, is a harder sell.
“Stories are about human experiences and connect all our senses of thinking and feeling,” explains Dr Ho Law, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, lecturer at the University of
East London and founder of Empsy® Ltd, an international coaching consultancy for senior business executives.
“Stories also have a linear sequence that take us on a journey towards an aspirational goal,” says Dr Law, “and goals are intrinsic to every business however big or small. From a clinical perspective, stories have the added bonus of making us feel good. Brain imaging demonstrates that linguistic engagement through narrative is able to shift activity from the older part of our brain i.e. the place where fear and anger reside, to a newer part of our brain i.e. the home of rational thinking, to create a calming effect.
Given the number of stressors we encounter each day, the application of storytelling for improving business performance is pretty exciting. But more exciting is the ability storytelling has for turning a commercial setback into a positive through re-authoring. By focusing on future outcomes, stories can turn any situation into a fantastic new venture – a cognitive skill effectively used by successful business leaders including veteran storytellers like Steve Jobs
But if you’re still not convinced that a story could improve the relationship your audience has with your marketing communications, then take a look at the following six worded tale allegedly crafted by Ernest Hemingway to win a bet in a bar:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Corporate stories don’t have to be complicated, just elegantly told.