Factor 1: Man as a storyteller – why stories are more effective and convincing
Man has been in the habit of thinking in images and stories since time immemorial. In contrast, the clinical and sterile PowerPoint-style of communication has only been prevalent for around 30 years and is therefore not granted entry by the “doorkeeper” or “bouncer” in our brain. That is why most of the audience nod off to sleep during presentations, whereas they read Dan Brown up to three o’clock in the morning even when they have to get up early the next day. The reason is that reports are in themselves boring whereas stories are interesting. This is why gossip and rumours travel further and reach more listeners than memos and fact-heavy in-house emails. Or to put it another way: if you have no story to tell, someone else will tell your story.
Factor 2: The first impression counts – the magic of the beginning
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is how the saying goes in management and especially in human resources. But this does not seem to apply to corporate communications. The opening sentence of an image brochure or a mission statement is often so boring, interchangeable and vacuous that these pathetic efforts can safely be dismissed as non-prescription sleeping pills. But those who do not arouse interest at the start of the story will lose out for good.
Factor 3: Hero and villain – drama and urgency in a story
The hero and villain appear in all good stories, but rarely feature in corporate communications. Every story needs a hero. And every hero needs a villain. No Adam and Eve without the Devil, no Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader, no Superman without Lex Luthor. Yet in business, communications frequently take place as though no hostile threats were on the horizon.
The members of staff know better, leading them to indulge in gossip (and pointing at bad guys), and sometimes to cynicism. Good storytelling helps companies to openly address dangers that confront them without lapsing into cynicism. And it can offer a solution – the happy ending!