How to Harness the Power of Storytelling

Chip Heath While the amount of data available to us in our daily lives is increasing exponentially, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker has always preached the persuasive power of storytelling, rather than fact sharing – it’s even listed on our home page as one of our core beliefs.

But a recent presentation I attended encouraged me to look back at NST’s storytelling principles to examine why they’re effective, and explore some new ways to incorporate them into my work and my client’s work.

So, why is storytelling important?

  • Data isn’t enough to compel someone to change their behavior
  • Emotions are more memorable and personal
  • It can help illustrate complex subjects
  • It gets your audience to care and create a connection
  • An emotional connection is more likely to solicit your desired behavior

How to develop a great story:

  • Share an anecdote that illustrates your point or is an example of the data you’re presenting
  • Share someone else’s story – in storytelling, it’s OK to borrow someone else’s story as long as it communicates your key message
  • Develop an analogy – this is particularly helpful when dealing with complex issues
  • Share a success story of your past work in this area
  • Practice, practice, practice – to avoid rambling make sure you can succinctly tell your story
  • Get emotionally invested – pick a point or two that hit home for you

Here’s a great example:
I could tell you that NST client Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego has 47 bedrooms, is just 100 yards away from a hospital, was designed for families with a child in medical crisis, and serves 15,000 family members each year with meals, lodging and support. Or, I can share …

I can share the story of one individual, my childhood neighbor Meridith. Meridith had an emergency C-section with her second child when doctors discovered swelling on her unborn baby boy’s brain. While Meridith recovered and baby Reef underwent surgery, Meridith, her husband and their daughter stayed at San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House, just steps away from baby Reef’s hospital bed. With the ability to remain together as a family, the House provided them the stability they needed, and took care of their day-to-day needs (meals, laundry, workout rooms, etc.) so they could focus on helping Reef heal.

Putting it into Practice:
Storytelling isn’t just for media interviews or group presentations, the techniques can be used in a variety of settings from internal one-on-one meetings to new business pitches, or even a cocktail party. In what scenarios has storytelling been effective for you?