In our content driven world, marketing expert Jennifer Aaker believes a good story will get you closer to your business and career goals.
By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt (Editor, Women 2.0)
Have you ever noticed that the best founders and CEOs always have a dramatic story to tell about how their company came to be and it’s raison d’etre. They’ll draw you into their “founders” story in a way that pulls on your heart strings and inspires you to want to be a part of the product or service they’re selling.
Jennifer Aaker, a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and author of The Dragon Fly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change says that neuroscience studies show that our brains are wired to better remember stories more than data, facts, and figures.
“When most people advocate for an idea we think of a compelling argument, a fact or a figure,” she explains in a video on Leanin.org. “But research shows that our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understands and retain stories.”
Aaker describes how a marketing researcher asked students in her class to make a 1-minute pitch. Only one out of ten students actually used a story in their pitch. She then asked the class to write down everything they remembered about each pitch. Five percent of the students cited a statistic while 63 percent remembered the story.
People respond much to emotion than to analytics, and this is often where business leaders go wrong. Today a company can’t exist without content, which is the buzzword du jour that basically means stories. Every company needs to be engaged in storytelling.
“A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action,” says Aaker.
All businesses today need to take their customers on journeys that will engage their audience and customers. This could be a tweet, a website that describes the origins of the product, a blog that continuously engages customers with posts that emotionally connect them to the product or service, or even an e-book or e-magazine that offers a narrative and visual glimpse into the market that the company serves.
Aaker offers three reasons why stories are important:
1. Stories shape how people see you. Research shows that stories that other people tell about you influence how they see you, whether they want to hire you, or whether they want to buy something from you.
2. Stories are tools of power. “When you tell a story, people slow down and listen," says Aaker. “Listening is a form of power as well.”
3. Stories persuade and move people to action. They’re a tool to advocate for your idea, your cause, or your company.
Aaker also explains that you should ask four questions to make sure you're telling an effective story:
1. Goal. Why you’re telling the story in the first place and what you want the audience to do, think, and feel after they hear the story? 2. Grab Attention. Why the audience would want to listen? 3. Engage: Why the audience cares? 4. Enable Action. Why would the audience want to share the story or co-create it with others?
“Everyone needs a signature story,” says Aaker. "The most powerful signature stories are those that take the audience where you want them to go.”
Women 2.0 readers: Is your company telling effective stories?
Rachel Lehmann-Haupt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an editor at Women 2.0. She also works with companies on the art of storytelling. This includes content strategy - blogs, web articles, contextual commerce, e-books and e-magazines - with the goal of better influencing and engaging audiences. She was a founding editor of TED Books and has published and edited numerous articles and books. Her interests include gender politics, working motherhood, urban innovation, health, and fashion. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily Beast, New York, Vogue, Self, Outside, and Wired. Follow her on Twitter at @rlehmannhaupt. Photo credit: Miriam Berkley