Telling stories, human nature and social media
Ok, maybe not since the dawn of time perhaps “since the evolution of language” would have been more accurate. But that didn’t sound very story-like.
Someone once told me that all the stories we are familiar with are in fact based on just a handful of original story ideas that came into being eons ago.
That could be true.
Certainly many cultures have a rich story-telling tradition. Viking sagas, the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, Greek myths, the Tales of 1,001 Nights – frankly there’s loads.
Stories don’t just come in that more obvious narrative format either. Cave paintings, totem poles, the adornments on boomerangs – graphical story-telling is a strong part of human history.
We’ve come a long way from sitting round the fire recounting our ancestors’ tales of derring-do or painting on cave walls. But stories are still a fundamental part of who we are as individuals, as nations and also in relation to how brands identify themselves.
The approach taken by advertisers and marketers just a generation or two ago looks naive by our sophisticated 21st century standards. It was, with some exceptions, “here’s our product – buy it.”
And while that approach still exists – and of course the motivation of generating sales is still hugely valid – consumers tend now to switch off to a lot of that stuff. We’re all so accustomed to being marketed to that maybe we’ve started to become immune.
Whether you call it PR, communications, marcomms, or whatever, those who ply their trade in the same sector as I are in the business of telling stories. Stories that will resonate with our clients’ target audiences and give them a sense of affinity with a particular brand.
This can be seen being played out in the digital space even more clearly, where the time between brand execution and customer feedback grows ever shorter.
But much like the crazy preacher-man berating the passing crowds at Oxford Circus I passed this morning, there’s a danger we end up trying to tell our stories to people who simply aren’t interested.
Again, the online world has made this trap ever more easy to fall into.
The fundamentals of story-telling – much like the fundamentals of human nature, in my opinion – remain:
- Get the story right
- Know who it is that you want to tell your story to
- Be sure you’re talking when (and where) they will listen.
- And who knows, maybe even ask them to share their stories with you too
We haven’t really come such a long way at all, in this story-teller’s opinion.
Although at least we’re not still writing on walls.
Yes Facebook, I’m looking at you.