The Power of Creative Storytelling

Published: March 7, 2018

by Justin Difazzio

Writer Maya Angelou is often quoted saying,

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Theologian Robert McAfee Brown famously said,

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

Any serious research on the importance of telling stories will turn up these quotes. Why is that? Because they’re true.

Stories are primal, one of the first methods of communication. Oral stories were our first histories, our understandings of where we came from and why we are here. We think in stories—cause and effect, a journey of discovery, a “then and now.” All of these things help us to understand the world around us, to create empathy and belief and value and trust. All of history is a story we live in every moment. Of course we’d find them powerful and engaging; we’re hard-wired that way.

As with anything powerful, when used in the correct way stories can be an incredible tool. Successful organizations know this and benefit from telling great stories. They can be a great way to establish trust with a brand. That trust establishes loyalty. And that loyalty increases returns.

Compelling stories make consumers feel something. And as Maya Angelou said, those consumers won’t forget how you made them feel. Used in the right way, they can trigger a person’s imagination, engage them, and make them participate in the narrative. This helps a company connect with their audience before getting down to business.

But those stories don’t come from nowhere. They have to be discovered. And the best of those stories solve a problem. So find the problem, examine what guides your company, and use that knowledge to craft a solution. When done correctly, your story will move your clients to act in a way that solves your problem further. Want to convince them you’re the most environmentally friendly brand, the most supportive of their way of life, or the coolest? Find the narrative that illustrates that desired image, and then tell the heck out of it.

You can’t do that, though, unless you understand things from the customer’s perspective. You’ve got to truly feel what they feel and know what they want. This may take a lot of research and time, but in the end, it’s completely worth it. Because without knowing this detail, your story could solve a problem no one has or answer a question no one is asking. And that only leaves viewers asking, “Who cares?”

Once you find it, though, all that’s left is crafting a compelling narrative and putting the pieces together. Everything from scene length to music to pacing to writing can evoke a certain feeling, and when all those pieces are working together, even a mediocre story can pack some real punch. But don’t settle for mediocrity. Everyone has a compelling story to tell, if they take the time to find it.