Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



Use Stories to Persuade

As my company prepares to roll out a new initiative, my colleagues came together last week to be briefed on the communications plans for the initiative. The meeting included reviewing the usual communication suspects: scripts, talking points, letters, Q&A, news releases and a few videos. I have been privy to a lot of the planning, so I knew about the basics. But I was surprised by my reaction to the video clips; the videos brought to the surface some poignant emotions.

Despite the fact that I already knew the message, despite the fact that I was on board with the rationale behind the initiative, the stories told in the videos buttressed what I believed, and catalyzed my commitment. Since then, it has occurred to me that I expererienced, once again, the persuasive power of storytelling.

I don't know what it is about us that loves a good story, but we do. As I mentioned a few months ago, storytelling is marketing's killer app, a skill every marketer will need to have developed as customers gravitate to products and services with which they feel a connection. Here are a few of my recent thoughts on stories:

All stories aren't created equal. The stories that have pathos, authenticity and a good plot will win out.

The individual components of the story aren't enough to make it compelling; it matters how its told. The stories I heard last week were told via video, some were narrated, others were composed of images, words and music, but they all had a "voice" with which the audience could connect.

The telling of the story isn't nearly as important as telling a story that fits the worldview of your audience. I learned this from George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant": we're more likely to accept a message if it fits the way we think of the world. Going back to my experience of last week, I was ready to be inspired by the videos because they fit the values I have about work and life.

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