The art of storytelling and how you can use it to transform your brand story

On September 16, Scale Up Academy hosted a storytelling workshop together with Accenture’s Emma White and Michelle van der Wouden. Attendees got the opportunity to develop their own style of storytelling and practiced sharing their story in front of fellow innovators.
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Facts and figures can be difficult to comprehend, especially to an audience who might not know how to make sense of the numbers. That’s why brands are mixing up their content by trying to embed elements of storytelling, to engage with their audience in a more appealing manner.

Storytelling can help you connect with your audience in a memorable and compelling way. In fact, stories are 22 times more memorable than facts alone. Using storytelling elements in your message can help you to make a meaningful connection with your listener, which can lead you to achieving your desired outcome. White and van der Wouden shared some ways you can make use of storytelling elements to transform your message. 

Emma White is a Learning and Talent Development Advisor and Michelle van der Wouden is a Bid Manager at Accenture. Both storytelling champions have together helped develop this storytelling training and have given external trainings and internal trainings at Accenture. Here’s what they shared to help you create compelling stories. 

Storytelling Defined

So, what exactly is storytelling? Storytelling is the art of organizing words through a structured format to ensure that people will learn, remember, take action, and repeat what they’ve heard. You can use storytelling elements in everyday situations. In fact, you probably already use it every day. From explaining a funny incident that happened at home to your colleagues, to sharing your wildest encounter with a crocodile in Australia, storytelling is something that comes naturally to us.

Research has shown that when the teller shares a story, the listener has the same brain activity as the teller has. The brain does process data differently than it does with stories. If you share a story, it activates many parts of your brain such as the visual cortex and Wernicke’s area. Your brain will also produce dopamine, which contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, and oxytocin, which helps intensify moments of bonding. 

Mehdi Farza, CEO and Co-Founder of SCITODATE, about the storytelling workshop:

“The workshop was very personal, and people were very open. It was nice to see people the same stage as we are and connect with them.

Know your audience

When McDonalds first revealed the Quarter Pounder burger, it was a massive success in the United States. One competitor wanted to replicate this success and so decided to create a third-pound burger, which was sold for the same price as McDonald’s Quarter Pounder burger, but with more meat in the patty. The third-pound burger even outperformed the Quarter Pounder burger in blind taste tests. The competitor expected the burger to be commercially successful but alas, the burger did not sell as well as the Quarter Pounder burger did. Why was that so? Well, it turns out that the target audience of the competitors, which were American citizens, were not very well-versed in the concept of fractions

Therefore, it is important for you to first know your audience, so you are aware of what story to use that resonates with them. For you to know your audience, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What makes them tick?
  • How do they like to receive their information?

To know your audience in a more accurate manner, you can listen to them, show them that you’re listening, and ask questions. You can also make use of analytics to get a general idea of your audience’s behavior, if you are unable to get such insights or answers from your target audience. 

What is the purpose of your story?

Once you have defined your audience, you can start to think of the story you’d like to share. What do you want to achieve with your story? You can use Steve Denning’s eight story purposes to help you get started:

  • Sparking action
  • Communicating who you are
  • Communicating who the company is
  • Transmitting values
  • Fostering collaboration
  • Taming the grapevine
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Leading people into the future

So what?

Now that you have defined your audience and selected your story’s purpose, you should also consider what’s in it for the listener. Why should they listen to your story and what is the one thing that you want them to remember and walk away with? What kind of stories would appeal to them? 

What makes a great story?

When you have thought about your audience, your Purpose and the “So what?” – you select the right story that conveys your message. Your story needs to consist of three parts – Situation, Disruption and an Outcome. If you don’t use these three elements, your story will not be memorable. 

You can use the framework below to help you get started in crafting your stories.

Tips and tricks for crafting your story:

  • Hook your listeners in by already sharing ‘What’s in it for them’.
  • Begin with the end in mind.
  • Make use of anecdotes and analogies.

Communicating Your Story

Sometimes, sharing your story is not only restricted to the words on your website, but also presenting your story to potential investors, customers, and even friends. In order to communicate your story efficiently, you should find your style. How do you communicate? What are you good at? 

Perhaps you like to throw in some puns for fun, or you have a knack for appealing to the emotional side of others. Whatever it may be, leverage on your communication strengths to find your own style of presentation. What’s most important is for you to be authentic and yourself. If you try to be someone else, it will not have the same impact that you are looking for.

Presentation tips

Here are some tips you could use when presenting:

  • Pace yourself and your story well.
  • Make use of pauses, for a dramatic effect.
  • Project your voice so that the last person at the very end of the room can hear you.
  • Smile and make eye contact to engage your audience.
  • Stand on two feet in order to look calmer and more professional.
  • Be mindful of your body language when you present.
  • The use of props and pictures can be used to complement your presentation. However, you need to analyze if these visuals would be distracting the audience from your real story or not.
  • Film yourself when you are practicing your presentation. You can look at the video afterwards to observe the positive points of your presentation, and what you can improve on.
  • Ensure that you are well-prepared by practicing.

Andy Camerucci, CEO and Founder of Emplero Labs, about the storytelling workshop:

“The workshop was energizing and engaging. The two speakers were full of nice insights and I really enjoyed it.

If you would like to learn more about the other workshops by the Scale Up Academy, you can go to their website.

You can find out more about Accenture’s insights on their website

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