As we exit lockdown (fingers crossed), there’s lots of chatter about the opportunities ahead of us to rebuild a new, better world – from flexible working patterns and levelling up, to active travel and protecting the environment. But, to realise these aspirations many aspects of life as we currently know it will have to fundamentally shift and, as we so often see, change is not something most people deal with particularly well.
While lots of these changes can largely be seen as positive, others will require significant alterations, perhaps disadvantaging some and inconveniencing many – and therein lies the challenge.
For the businesses, local councils and governments attempting to deliver change, bringing people on the journey and using storytelling to explain potential short term pain for long term gain will be crucial.
The world around us seems more segmented and divided than ever before, spurred on by social media algorithms driving us further into entrenched camps. Whether it’s the latest fiery local debate about a new cycle lane or persuading an employee living in a cramped flat share that going remote is the exciting new normal – understanding your narrative, setting it out clearly and understanding the challenges (for everyone) is key to unlocking support. That is just as much about people and feelings as it is about facts and figures.
Essential to good storytelling is understanding your audience and their perspective. For all the perceived ‘good’ that may come in the aftermath of the pandemic, the new, better world is of little comfort to those who have born the brunt of an economic and human disaster, and are likely to continue to do so for some time to come.
So, before putting pen to paper on why you think an idea is great, contemplate how others will feel, their experiences and what the impact will be on them. Better still undertake some research to find out what their views and likely responses are.
Once you have gained this insight into the experiences and views of your target audience, you will be in a much better position to get your message across. And, chances are, it will mean more than just rethinking the words you use, it means considering timing, case studies, channels and perhaps even the detail of the policy itself but, ultimately, this will help you bring people on the journey with you.
Storytelling isn’t only important in delivering change – it’s central to bid writing, award submissions, reputation management, public consultations, brand building and a huge range of other communications.
The power in telling a story comes from the depth and colour it brings to otherwise bland content. Psychologists have found that stories are easier for people to remember compared to facts and figures and we have a more visceral connection to hearing and absorbing information aligned with the experiences of others.
It is these human qualities that make good storytelling so impactful and an essential part of any effective communications strategy.
Ashley Rudge is a senior account manager at Camargue