By Angela Riley
Rhetoric is at the center of most business activity. Whether we are trying to attract new customers or engage and connect internally, business relies on persuasion. The entirety of what KWI does, from internal communications to creative services, is centered around how audiences receive and understand the messages we create.
Capturing your audience’s attention for even five minutes is a huge accomplishment in today’s competitive content marketing landscape. And yet at the same time, movies and TV shows can hold the attention of those same people for hours.
So, what’s the difference between channel surfing and binge-watching? Storytelling.
In our fast-paced world, where people tend to skim through content, quality storytelling is the most engaging, most cost-efficient and most direct way to persuade.
Storytellers use both fact and narrative to communicate something to their audience. Stories forge connections among people and between people and ideas, conveying the culture, history and values that unite people.
Storytelling is one of the most powerful methods leaders have to influence, teach and inspire. But what separates a powerful story from a mediocre one that will be soon forgotten?
“The best storytelling connects the audience’s intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual realms with a product, idea, cause or process,” says Ken Willis, professional storyteller and founder of KWI.
Some stories are factual, and some are embellished or improvised to better explain the core message. Good storytelling allows the audience to become part of the story – no matter the subject – creating familiarity, trust and an openness to learning. They can contain multiple meanings, to organically and efficiently convey complex ideas in a compelling way. And good stories are far more engaging than a dry presentation or discussion about meaningless numbers and abstract ideas.
Where to Begin
Before telling a story, you must first decide on the message you want to share. Then look for ways to make it relatable to the audience. Featuring someone your audience knows will grab their attention and hold it longer than flat words on a page. Introducing a conflict that this main character faces allows the audience to follow along the journey to a happy ending. If possible, use real employee stories or customer testimonials for a more personal and impactful experience. The full picture, or story, connects your audience’s desires with the training, resolution, change or tool you set out to persuade them to embrace in the first place.
If you include these elements, you’re off to a great start. But how do you take that great start and turn it into attention-grabbing, engaging and behavior-changing communications?
Choose the Right Channel
In today’s culture with a world of information at our fingertips, there are a variety of avenues, or channels, to tell stories through. Within corporate communication, emails, intranet articles, company app push notifications, memos, videos and in-person speaking opportunities are all common vehicles for sharing a message.
Part of the art of creating effective communications is identifying which medium to use for your audience and how to use it effectively.
But we aren’t suggesting a reliance on psychic readings, tarot cards or crystal balls.
Wondering how to understand what your audience wants and needs? An educated guess or some trial and error might get you close to figuring out where and how to share your story. The right answer, though? Ask your audience.
Kicking this question to the audience — the very people whose attention you are trying to hold — builds trust. Should you act on the information you gather, then you’re well on your way to inspiring engagement and establishing belonging.
Bring It Home
If you continually convey information your audience wants and needs in the way that most resonates with them, you’ll develop a culture where you can capture your audience’s attention and persuade them to embrace changes.
“We [the business] usually can achieve only a partial connection [with our audience], but we hope that with accumulated stories the full connections can be made,” says Willis.
An accumulation of stories — across the mediums from which your audience best absorbs information — delivers meaningful change and keeps people at the center of business. Turning individuals into an engaged community that produces excellence and fosters trust, all while deepening an open and transparent environment where people experience belonging and purpose.
Interested in how our storytellers at KWI can help improve communications to drive engagement? Reach out – we’d love to chat.