Leveraging narrative communication

Leveraging narrative communication

“Let me tell you a story…”

That’s a far more enticing opener to a conversation than, for example, “Here are the USPs of the product I want you to buy” and savvy marketers know it. It’s why we’ve seen a shift in communication culture towards the adoption of different forms of storytelling techniques and principles. Used successfully, they can capture attention, connect with new audiences and drive business success

So important is storytelling in effective marketing that recent independent research with 250 top UK marketers revealed that nearly eight out of ten wanted storytelling to have a significant role in their 2023 communication plan.

Storytelling and cultural context

Ever since there has been a human society, cultures around the world have told stories. Our brains respond to the structure of a beginning, middle and end and are more likely to retain that information: you can probably remember the details of fairy tales you were told as a child despite not hearing them for decades. In fact, one of the biggest cultural differences between people now and those who lived over 100 years ago is the decline of storytelling among adults in our national culture. We no longer have wandering minstrels or knowledge passed down through epic poetry recited at society gatherings – although other cultures around the world have retained these types of traditions.

However, our brains haven’t altered at the same speed as our communication culture and we’re still hardwired to enjoy and remember stories. If you think of any successful communication practices – whether that’s a TV advert, a piece of news in the media, or a display ad – it probably told you a story. For example, the memorable “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” ads always told us a story of someone making an embarrassing mistake that would have been avoided if their vision was corrected.

How cultural and creative industries can harness narrative

Marketers who master the use of storytelling across a broad range of other communication skills and practices have the edge over competitors who stick with telling consumers about product benefits.

Using the four Ps of business storytelling – People, Place, Purpose and Plot – you can help customers or employees retain what you tell them about your business long after your advert has finished or your public relations story has dropped out of the media.

Even if your business doesn’t naturally lend itself to storytelling, learning to leverage narrative culture properly can bring a host of benefits.

The power of storytelling

Narrative culture recognises the innate human affinity for stories. Whatever else people have on their minds, hearing a story can stop them in their tracks and make them focus on the message you’re conveying. By weaving narratives into marketing and communications efforts, businesses can engage their audience emotionally, captivate their attention and create a lasting impact.

One of the best ways to communicate a story is to focus it on the customer and their needs. They are the protagonist of the story, and your business is the knight in shining armour who gallops in to solve their problem, resulting in a happy ending. Other examples of storytelling could be about how your business was founded, as long as it’s interesting and focuses on what problem it solves.

Research shows that clients are also more likely to share a story than an advert, with their peers or on social media, becoming your word-of-mouth advertisers.

Building authenticity and trust

Narrative culture allows businesses to convey their brand’s values, mission and purpose through storytelling. By crafting authentic narratives, companies can build trust with their audience because stories have the power to evoke genuine emotions and create relatable experiences.

You can also engage your employees through internal communication storytelling. That could be bringing their career prospects to life in group work by sharing stories of how others made it to the top, or by creating great employee experience events that use narrative rather than PowerPoint for communication of business and cultural change. Equipping employees with practical skills and writing skills to use storytelling in their everyday life, across a range of media, can further establish meaningful communication and culture with end customers.

Differentiation and brand identity

A strong brand story helps businesses differentiate themselves from competitors. By developing unique and compelling brand stories, companies across media industries can carve out a distinct identity in the market. This is more important than ever when a business must compete with social media influencers and celebrity culture, and simply having knowledge isn’t sufficient to gain a share of voice in the media.

Stories enable businesses to stand out, leave a lasting impression and be memorable in the minds of their target audience.

Evoking customer engagement and loyalty

When we tell our customers a great story, we are more likely to grab their attention and get our message to stick in their minds.

Narrative culture stimulates customer engagement and encourages brand loyalty. Engaging communication allows customers to become active participants in a brand’s story, fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty. By aligning their stories with customer aspirations, cultural practices and values, businesses can foster a strong emotional connection that leads to repeat business and advocacy.

Integrated marketing and communications

Businesses can leverage narrative culture across various marketing and communications channels. In the digital age, as attention spans for social interaction shorten and consumers will scroll on by if your marketing communication doesn’t capture their attention, you have just seconds to convey your brand message.

Whether through website content, public relations, social media campaigns or video storytelling, companies can subtly tweak the stories they tell for different media, such as written work or a moving image. By doing so companies can create a cohesive and compelling narrative experience for their audience and consistently reinforce their brand story.

From mass communication to personal communication culture

Narrative culture empowers communication experts to harness the art of storytelling to connect with their audience, build authenticity and trust, differentiate their brand, and cultivate customer engagement and loyalty. Storytelling can help each recipient relate your product or service to their own pain points, effectively turning it into a personalised piece of marketing. Every company’s communication culture can make use of different aspects of storytelling, including sharing new ideas and concepts with employees, as well as trying to influence new customers.

By integrating narratives into their marketing and communications strategies, cultural industries can create impactful and memorable experiences that cut through the noise in consumer culture, resulting in stronger brand connections, increased customer loyalty and business growth.

 

If you need help with your communications, get in touch to see how we can elevate your strategy.