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What storytelling is and how it engages us

Verica Rosic, September 23, 2022· Content Marketing

We are glued to the lips of the storyteller, a shiver runs down our spine and we simply can’t blink any more – that is the effect of good storytelling. In our international, Anglicised world, this is called storytelling.


What is storytelling?

Storytelling is a method of packaging information or perhaps a message in a story to increase the audience’s absorption of knowledge. Today, storytelling is mainly used in digital media, but it all started with the first campfire stories.

Why is storytelling so effective?

Storytelling uses a very simple fact: we remember stories better than pure information. With stories, we are addressed on many levels and that is why it stays with us longer.

The right story builds trust with potential customers. But not only trust, but also identification is important. Storytelling brings closeness and recognition.

A good story spreads by itself. Never underestimate the effect of word of mouth and its spread.

Tips for good storytelling

Good storytelling can achieve a lot. It can make the difference between a message being received or not. Win or lose customers. Strengthen or weaken the image. Convince voters or gamble them away.

Each area of application has its own rules of the game and its own challenges, but there are some general tips we can give you on storytelling.

  • Authentic and believable

  • Short and to the point

  • Easy to understand

  • Triggering emotions

Authentic and believable

Everyone knows the situation: someone tells us about an experience and our head simply doesn’t want to believe the story because it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t sound authentic. At this point, we will remember the story for some time, but we are not convinced.

For companies, the same applies: if it doesn’t sound authentic, it’s better to let it be. Storytelling can sometimes work wonders, but the audience will still see behind a false façade. Once you have started with inauthentic stories, it will be hard to come back and convince people.

Also a fact for individuals as well as companies: Thou shalt not lie. Sounds old-fashioned, but it is immensely important. If you tell stories and want to convince people, you should stick to the facts. We also know very well that truth is a flexible concept in many areas. But you should still be careful what you do, because especially in the digital age, you can’t just quickly correct mistakes. So be sure to remain credible and don’t be tempted to make untrustworthy statements. Your company’s reputation will thank you for it. By the way, this principle applies to internal as well as external communication.

Short and to the point

Although storytelling can captivate the audience, this spell does not last indefinitely. Even the best story becomes boring at some point if it is not listened to with intention. Therefore our tip: Keep it short and to the point.

But short is not limited to 30 seconds or two minutes. Short always depends on the context, who the target group is and what their connection is to the message.

Easy to understand

If questions about the story arise during the narration, it can mean something good. If confusion arises during the storytelling, it can’t be good. Our advice: Keep your storytelling simple.

There are takers for all kinds of stories, so you just need to get your story to the right people. These people should be your target audience, otherwise something has gone wrong. Then, if you want to tell a story to your audience, use the simplest words that convey your message correctly. There is no need to include words that could cause confusion. You want to get your message across clearly, so every word has to be right.

Triggering emotions

Good storytelling triggers emotions in the viewers. We all know that stories, whether in films, series or videos, grab us the most and stay with us the longest when they sweep us along. Anger, fear, joy, sadness, all these emotions can be addressed and harnessed. Depending on the project, a different emotion is best to target.

Storytelling within the company

Why should a company use storytelling? We’ll go into the use of storytelling in marketing and sales below. So you might be wondering what that leaves. Simply everything.

Storytelling can be incorporated anywhere. Communication between work colleagues or co-workers will not benefit from storytelling because the focus is quality and efficiency. But internal communication between supervisors or even the C-level with employees regarding a merger or rebranding, for example, can benefit from storytelling. The goal here is to pick up the employees so that they themselves live the new vision or mission in the company. The tricky part is precisely this pick-up, because not all employees are on fire for the company they work for. Storytelling can close the gap and should therefore always be used when the situation allows it.

Storytelling in marketing and sales

As already mentioned, many people use storytelling without knowing it or without ever having dealt with the topic of storytelling.

We all know the tanned salesmen with slicked-back hair from films and series. Whether they have dealt with storytelling or not, they have all wanted to convince potential buyers to make a purchase and used stories to do so. These film salesmen are rare today and serious companies still use storytelling but in a different form.

In sales, a potential customer has to be convinced of a product or service. Simply reading off the facts will not help in most cases because either the technical facts are too complicated or they are too marginal to make a difference to us. In sales, negotiation and storytelling are needed to generate customers. Storytelling supports the salesperson by building a story and engaging their audience. The practical thing about a story is that it always solves a problem and has a resolution at the end. In this resolution it usually becomes clear why the problem could only be solved in exactly this way. The right story can convince any target group.

In marketing, storytelling is the be-all and end-all. In today’s world, advertising is a dime a dozen. Keeping an advertising or branding campaign in people’s minds in the long term is a Herculean task – this is where storytelling comes into play.

If you look at the commercials, posters and videos of companies, you will always find storytelling elements. It is essential to have a chance in competition.

A classic example are the emotional videos around Christmas time, which don’t really tell us much about the company, but still don’t let us forget the name. However, the activity does not have to be hidden. Many companies use the effect of storytelling to captivate viewers and then usually confront them with products, discounts or occasions at the end. They will absorb this information spellbound.

But companies that are not exposed to competition also use storytelling. As already mentioned, storytelling helps to convey a message or information effectively. It does not matter whether the focus is on profit or learning effect.

Storytelling should not only be used for advertising, but also for image and product videos. The recognition value of an entire company benefits immensely from a few well thought-out videos or images.

Storytelling – Summary

As a form of storytelling, storytelling has been around for a very long time and is certainly not going to leave us. Influencing our perception is a powerful weapon for entertainment but also on a political and economic level.

Especially in the field of e-learning, we rely heavily on appropriate storytelling to achieve an optimal learning effect.