The miracle of storytelling

I recently had the privilege of spending a few days with several inspiring African millennial leaders from various spheres of society. A few of us congregated together at a beautiful venue in the African bush. Others, intermittently, joined us in “Zoom-land”. The task before us was to come up with a strategy that would activate the next generation of continental leaders in healing the racial, tribal, social, political, and economic divisiveness that torments our continent.

The first day’s session was informative, collegial, and full of energy. However, dropping my suitcase in the rondawel or bungalow before dinner, I reflected on the chasm left between the day one conclusion and our desired outcome. What on earth could help us accelerate towards our goal? Copious amounts of good food? A moderate amount of alcohol? A miracle?

We partook of good food and a modest measure of the fruit from the vine. However, a miracle was awaiting us. We started sharing stories of how we met our spouses, life partners, and better halves. Some who were not married shared stories that would inform the types of people they would consider sharing their lives with. Each had their own brand of storytelling, authentic to their personality, nationality, and circumstances. I was mesmerised by the joy, heartache, hopes, fears, realities, and fantasies conveyed through these stories.

The next day blew my mind. The level of engagement, trust, vulnerability, candour, courage, and creativity started to close the chasm left by our endeavours of the previous day. In eight hours, we did not only reach our desired goal but also came up with tangible action steps, time frames, and ascribed accountability.

Driving home, I wondered out loud, “what happened?”.

The only plausible explanation that I could come up with was – the miracle of storytelling.

Storytelling, if done authentically to the narrator and respectfully to the audience, has the power to move people. In my opinion, storytelling is more powerful than facts and figures in changing your world to be a better place.

Let us now apply the miracle of storytelling to everyday life. Let us consider brand storytelling. Brand storytelling is all about simplifying your brand story to its essence, and converting your audience into active advocates of your brand.

The goal of brand storytelling is to help your audience to

  • Know you;
  • Have affection for you; and
  • Find common ground with you

The storytelling framework made famous by Pixar can help us here. According to this framework, brand storytelling considers the following – 

    • The hero – You are not the hero of your brand story, your client is.
    • The hero has a dilemma – Your brand has no relevance if it does not solve a problem for your hero.
    • The hero employs a guide – You are the guide (not the hero!).
    • To overcome obstacles – A problem solved for your hero makes them not only active advocates but also raving fans of your brand.
    • Together the guide and the hero arrive safely at the desired place – Mutual fulfilment provides a brand with longevity.

In bringing my story to an end I will leave you with this thought – The stories you tell will determine the stories that will be told about you.

Author avatar
Boshoff Grobler

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