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22 April, 2021 • 5 minute read
With 40% of consumers seeking brands that act in society’s best interests, integrity has become fundamental to success. Today, trust underpins brand loyalty and that trust is awarded to purpose-led businesses who tackle problems of society head on.
Storytelling has been used as a tool for social change for hundreds of years. This remains true today, but the key difference is how far our voices can carry, from traditional methods to social media. If done well, storytelling can be one of the most valuable tools a business has in earning their audience’s trust.
As part of the Seenit Storytelling Summit 2021, we invited some of the leading voices in CSR, leadership, diversity and inclusion, and marketing to share their thoughts on the power of storytelling across leadership, marketing and corporate social responsibility. Here are some of the key points they shared with us:
Impactful stories evoke emotion by bringing to life the joy, the pain, and everything in between. Instead of trying to quash criticism with glossy ads, you should seek to understand issues your community has and own these faults in your storytelling.
In the words of Hemingway:
“I’m trying in all my stories to get the feeling of the actual life across.You can’t do this without putting in the bad and the ugly as well as what is beautiful. If it is all beautiful, you can’t believe in it.”
It’s natural to want to tell stories that position your brand in the best possible way. But, as
Gastón Tourn, the Chief Marketing Officer at Appear Here, explained, connections are made when someone acknowledges their flaws. For that reason, the most powerful stories are those that convey the highs and the lows of the human experience.
A cause marketing campaign isn’t about waving an all-purpose flag for one social cause. It’s about using storytelling to unearth the challenges faced by each particular group; it’s about being thoughtful and intentional in your representation.
Kavell Brown, Senior Coordinator of Community Investment and Corporate Social Responsibility at ViacomCBS, used voting as an example. If you’re encouraging members of the Latinx community to vote in an upcoming election, it’s a different hurdle than it is for the black community. People engage with stories that they can relate to; they connect with characters that represent their culture, their hopes, dreams, and struggles. If your goal is to raise awareness of a particular cause, your stories should reflect the intersectional nature of people’s identities.
Storytelling has a huge role to play in making connections with each and every person in your organisation. Dame Heather Rabbatts, TIME’S UP UK Chair and Producer at Cove Pictures, explained how presenting your people with a set of new rules and policies on paper is unlikely to achieve cultural change.
By using stories, you can capture the human essence of the challenges people are facing; you invite members of one group to understand the perspectives of another on an emotional level. Stories have the power to unite us and, in turn, enable a shift in culture from the inside out. The more people understand each other, the more people feel comfortable speaking out about certain issues.
Marketing is fundamental to business growth, but most strategies lead from the inside out. After a product is made, marketing will come up with campaigns that tell its audience why they should care. During the session, Gastón Tourn encouraged brands to rethink marketing altogether.
“The role of a marketer should be to challenge assumptions within the organisation,” he said. “Ask yourself: is this relevant? Is this what people want? What are the ethical implications of this? Is this the right thing to do?”
Storytelling is a powerful tool in tapping into the feelings of your community, but you have to involve them in the process. Don’t storytell, story-make: actively work with your community to understand their challenges and use this as a starting point for your stories.
To keep people inspired requires hope. Hope is the engine that powers us to keep going - especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Maintaining momentum in your storytelling is vital in promoting this radical hope, and no amount of repetition is too much. These challenges may not be solved overnight, but it’s the consistency and commitment we throw behind them that eventually start to make a difference.
Not so long ago, the idea of womens’ sport, for example, wasn’t taken seriously. Today, girls growing up can actually envision themselves playing sports professionally. Storytelling has played a monumental role in celebrating, elevating and normalising women in sport. We may still be in the foothills, but the impact of storytelling here has been very real and tangible.
A well told story conveys purpose, and businesses with purpose are the ones who will capture the hearts of their community. The world is watching, and the stories your business tells today will speak volumes about your brand in the long-term.
Want to learn more about how storytelling can positively influence the growth of your business? Watch the full panel discussion here.