Storytelling: It’s What Makes Our Content Engaging

(Sources: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative- Rabinowitz; A Grammar of Motives- Burke; Rhetoric, Poetics, and Cultures- Berlin.)

Storytelling for Change

Storytelling, at its heart, is a culturally communicative practice. Over time, systems of norms shape what sorts of stories are crafted and told. However, the telling of stories can also provide a scaffold for a normative shift. Stories are the bones upon which humanity builds its cultures.

Storytelling is a powerful tool to reinforce the dominant norms of the past (patriarchal societies, classist structures, states of inequality, etc.) but also a catalyst for change (yes we can, I have a dream, The only thing to fear is fear itself, etc.).

Although our goal at FMG Suite is not primarily to bring about sweeping social change, we should be aware of the power of a well-told story (be it via video, article, infographic, or even social post) to influence and shape our audience’s individual lives, choices, and experiences.

Persuading With Storytelling

Thanks to its roots as a communal, cultural practice (it not only predates writing but is ingrained in notable cultural events like religious and national holidays and major artistic endeavors like film and television), storytelling is a powerful tool when persuading a person to action.

Rather than telling a prospective client that they should be putting money in X investment, or waiting until Y year to withdraw from their 401(k), a story illustrating these concepts is much more powerful. An audience is far more receptive to a lesson illustrated by a fictional Jack or Sally (look how successful Sally was by following this investing lesson), than to a command (wait until you’re exactly 70 ½ to begin withdrawing from your 401(k) because I said so).

That’s not to say that to tell a story you must invoke fictional or non-fictional people. Stories can also be told about objects and concepts like websites, customer experiences, etc. The goal is not to abstract these concepts, but to ground them in relatable, shared experiences.

Audience Identification

When an audience can identify with the spirit of a narrative, it establishes the affective response to the text. In other words, the more our audience feels this particular content piece is about them, effects them, addresses them, etc. the more of an emotional impact we’ll have.

It’s been proven that when writing prompts an affective response, it can help with content retention, a desire to share with others, and enduring trust in the source of that emotion. Some narrative theorists have gone as far as to suggest that a sort of narrative transaction takes place between reader and author: through a text’s affective moves, it comes to constitute the identity of the reader. It becomes part of them in a way that only good storytelling can. At FMG Suite, when we can get a content piece to this level for the majority of our audience, we’ve struck gold.