The Story Effect

By Claire Cunningham - Director - Rockallwight PR

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as the image, perception, or story created from an accumulation of sensory, emotional and rational touch points one has with the product (this could be a person, place or thing). 

What’s in a name?

When I dreamt up a name for my business, I was sitting at my desk, staring at the wall, as many founders probably do, daydreaming about the company and what it would be like. I wanted the business to be instilled with some of the passion and excitement that I had experienced, when I ran international PR campaigns for the UK Government.

Back in the day, one of the things that we would do, is to take groups of promising UK tech SMEs from a range of business sectors and help them open their business up to international markets and investment. This was often to Silicon Valley in the US. There were quite a few times when I would be sitting on a plane heading away from the UK and bound for San Francisco. The video of the flight path on the monitor on the back of the seat, always used to get my attention. It felt significant to be travelling away from the UK with such purpose. I would always feel a little proud and privileged to be on an important business mission.

On the day, a few years later, when I was staring at the wall, I was reflecting on all of this. This was probably because I had a poster of the UK up there, with our shipping areas on it. I was envisioning my new business and decided to give it a UK 'flavour', by taking a shipping area from the top of the map and one from the bottom and combining the words. And that’s why we are called Rockallwight PR. We are dedicated to helping innovative UK SMEs to grow their business and so a name that has a story attached to it that’s rooted in the UK, seems fitting.

There’s a reason why I told that story!

If you are still reading this then I have your attention. There’s a reason why I do. It’s most likely to be because I just told you a story. That story has told you something about me and my business. Hopefully you will agree that what it has left you with is a positive feeling or emotion about the company. But how did I do that? It probably took you less than a minute to read the story but now you know something about Rockallwight PR the brand and my personal brand too. This blog is not about Rockallwight PR or about me, although I told you a story about these things at the start. That was just an example. The story is there to help illustrate the power of storytelling. That’s what this is really about.

Why is storytelling important?

I am going to introduce you to two experts who present some of the most persuasive arguments that I have ever heard about storytelling and its importance in business.The first expert is, Hilary Scarlett, a business consultant who focuses on the scientific study of the way that the brain thinks and how that can be applied to management practice. In her book Neuroscience for Organisational Change (2016) she explains that as humans we have an ‘insatiable interest in stories’:

“Wall paintings in caves that date back around 40,000 years show that our ancestors also enjoyed depicting stories. Much of our time is spent in sharing personal stories, anecdotes and gossip.”

Ok, we all know this… so where does the stuff about the brain come in? Research has shown that stories are more persuasive than presenting straight facts and figures because when we tell a story, we activate many more parts of the brain. So, brain scans show that when someone listens to a story, the same parts of the brain are activated as if we were executing the action ourselves. Hilary Scarlett explains that: 

it’s as if we are in the shoes of the people in the story and are experiencing the sensations and emotions that they are experiencing…..we experience and identify with a story, whereas we filter and analyse a presentation”.

 Watch and learn!

 If you are intrigued by this idea and haven’t watched it already, then have a look at this video from US business guru Simon Sinek.

He explains that when people make decisions they are accessing the non-verbal emotional part of the brain. This is where the expression ‘gut feeling’ comes from.  

 And that’s why stories are so important for your brand and your business. Stories tap into our emotional core, the part of the brain that makes decisions. That's important if the decision being made is about your company, product or service. 

We are bombarded with marketing messages that are pushed at us every day, and we are starting to get better at filtering them. If you are a business trying to sell a product, this also means that there’s a lot of noise to cut through, much of it made by your competitors.

By harnessing the power of storytelling, it’s possible to create intrigue and draw people in, rather than pushing messages and materials at them, in the hope that they will get through the noise.

In my next blog, I will be looking at the importance of having a brand story and the positive impact that success stories can have on your business.

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