I saw a headline recently that really grabbed my attention:
H2H means ‘human to human’, and it honestly stuck a chord. “Yes!” I thought. “That’s right!”
I’m not sure how we got here. I have some vague, unformed inkling that the increased freedom of speech and inclusiveness of the internet has killed off – or is in the later stages of killing off – the sort of business insincerity that used to be the norm.
But what does our newfound appetite for an ‘H2H’ style mean for business communications? At Southerly, we think it can only mean one thing: that business storytelling techniques are ever more important to master. Why? Well, because wanting to tell and listen to stories is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Indeed, it’s a trait as old as humanity itself.
Survival of the fittest
We have evolved over many thousands of years from having just two basic emotions – fear and contentment – into the complex, analytical creatures we are today, and storytelling has served a very important purpose in our development. In fact, you could say it was a big part of why we were able to develop so quickly, relatively speaking. It dawned on our predecessors (on some level, anyway) that our brains couldn’t really distinguish between actually experiencing something and imagining the same experience. For this reason, our ancestors used stories to learn from the experiences of others. They ‘borrowed’ experiences to accelerate and accumulate more and more knowledge, in order to become better and better at surviving. In other words storytelling, by its very nature, is Darwinian.
We’re not so very different today. In a weird way, we’re still looking around for someone’s experience to borrow. If you’re bored, you might have a penchant for a thrilling book or film. If you’re trying to choose a new product, service, place to work or holiday to book, what do you do? You look for reviews and testimonials, of course. You look for information to help you make your decision.
Show, don’t tell
So, businesses would do well to remember what skilled story-scanners humans are when telling us about your products or services. But you’ve got it get it right and make sure you include a balanced plot. Otherwise, your audience might feel a bit unsatisfied or – even worse – cheated.
You’ve probably heard the ‘show, don’t tell’ technique to storytelling, and letting the reader infer your scene or story remains good advice. Better still, try to identify characters and plot elements in your business storytelling. It sounds more difficult than it is, if you set your mind to it.
There are key elements that we, as humans, have sought in our stories for literally thousands of years; all that we do is a story. If you want to connect on a human level, you could do a lot worse than thinking about what it is about storytelling that so engages us all and hooks us in. Here’s a quick checklist for making sure your business storytelling has the right ingredients, dubbed the S.T.O.R.I.E.S. checklist:
And lastly, don’t worry. Communicating with humans is not that hard. After all, you’re a human yourself.
* Thanks to Simon De Deney for sharing these insights with us at a recent workshop he gave us at our offices.