Storytelling is one of the most inherently human activities that exists. No other species has the documented ability to tell stories the way we do. Stories greatly affect how people view topics. Storytelling, as opposed to any other method of communication, has the capacity to plant thoughts, ideas, and emotions into the audience’s brain.
Science has shown that our brains react differently to stories than to information with no narrative elements. When we hear a story, many different areas of the brain are activated. When hearing a story, the entire brain lights up with activity but when information is presented in a non-story manner, only the brain’s language processing areas become engaged.
Information in a story stimulates the brain in a way that makes it feel as if it’s experiencing the story itself. If I was to describe someone with leathery hands or a velvet voice, the sensory cortex of your brain would react. If I described my movements in the thirty minutes after getting out of bed, the motor cortex of the brain would be stimulated. These are the same parts of the brain that would be activated if you touched leather, a velvet curtain or when you experience motion.
People are moved by stories in ways that other forms of communication simply cannot match. Stories create emotional and psychological connections that help information gain traction in the audience’s brain.
Businesses across all industries work to take advantage of people’s natural attraction to storytelling. By communicating relevant information in the form of the story, it will engage the audience in a way that simply detailing the relevant information never would.
There are 4 main areas to consider in order to tell the most effective stories about your brand:
1. Humanize your message
Conveying information in the form of a story has the effect of humanizing your message. Storytelling can convey feelings of trust, authenticity, and sincerity; traits often associated with other humans.
Authenticity enables feelings and emotions to be conveyed. Authenticity is a leading reason why content associated with individuals within an organization has become so important to how brands interact with their audiences. It is best practice in content marketing to attach a name to company emails, blog posts and other forms of content. Content created by a brand’s CEO, the users of a product, or a customer-facing employee is more successful than content labeled with just the brand name.
People relate to other people, and storytelling evokes that connection. The most successful brands create emotional attachments with their customers. Consumers want to trust brands, and it is far easier for consumers to trust another human than a faceless entity. Storytelling can create that human connection and increase the trust consumers have in your brand.
2. Be emotional
Stories are a fantastic way to convey emotions to an audience. If someone becomes emotionally attached to an idea, it will stay in their mind. By creating an emotional connection with an audience, you can draw their continued attention.
One way you can use emotions to create more effective content is by drawing on empathy to forge connections with the reader (or viewer). You can easily create more effective content by putting the audience at the heart of the story and explaining how the information affects them.
In the competitive market for people’s attention, a story without an emotional connection will be ignored and quickly forgotten. Perhaps the most important feature of a story is connecting the information within to a human lens. In some situations, emotion can be more important to a decision-maker than facts.
3. Framing context
Humans think in terms of cause and effect. Regardless of the activity, people think in narratives. People create short stories about every little thing that happens to them. They enjoy sharing personal conversations and anecdotes. People naturally communicate first and foremost through stories, and brands can take advantage of that fact.
Storytelling affords brands the chance to talk in terms of cause and effect, and explain how their message directly affects individuals. People want to relate information to their own experiences whenever possible. Storytelling gives brands an opportunity to explain why the information they are providing is relevant to their target audience. Framing your content in this fashion will allow you to retain the interest of your audience.
4. Retaining interest
Listing facts and figures is not an engaging way of communicating information. Powerpoints, academic papers, and lectures are jam-packed with information but are not as effective a medium for communicating information as storytelling. They do not engage audiences as much as stories because they can come across as “dry” to most of the intended audience.
Storytelling, unlike other methods of communicating information, can maintain audience interest in a world of information overload. By creating peaks and valleys in the “flow” of the story, brands can create suspense and stakes within their story. Consider your favorite novel, movie or play. It is very likely there are suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout the content to create suspense.
Stories allow brands to retain their audience’s interest by motivating “action centers” within their brain. You can use various narrative techniques to engage audiences, peaking their interest and keeping their eyes on your content. No other form of communication has this benefit.
These facts about human psychology boil down to one lesson: People may forget facts, but they never forget great stories.
How to convey warmth through storytelling in financial services?
The financial services industry is no exception to the rule. Storytelling is still the most effective way to communicate relevant information to an audience. You can incorporate stories into all aspects of your marketing campaigns, client loyalty, and sales efforts.
Most people will say that they understand the importance of saving for retirement, but many do not invest enough in their 401(k) or other retirement plans. If you tell them “save more”, they might not listen to you. Provide that information in a narrative and the psychology of storytelling can help them understand the importance of the information you are providing.
Tell them a story of a family who did not save enough for retirement, and as a result suffered consequences, putting immense pressure on their loved ones. This story can help illustrate the importance of saving for retirement in a way that your audience can relate to.
You could explain how you would help a potential client plan for retirement, but that might not motivate people to make smarter decisions. Tell a story about a young couple who you met with the exact same mindset the audience has. Use the story to show how your advice made their life better. That story will resonate better and will influence their emotions to motivate action.
You can tell millennial audiences a story about one of their peers in a dire financial situation. Explain how with your services, you can help them save for their dream vacation. When you tell a story, your goal should be to have the audience empathize with the characters in the story.
Any financial services professional can use storytelling to help their clients understand the importance of various financial situations. When pure information doesn’t motivate client action, a story can evoke emotions that may cause your client base to take action.