The great Bob Dylan once said, “There is nothing so stable as change.” And though change makes many of us feel far from stable, he was right; along with death and taxes, change is one of the few things in life we can count on.
The media has changed enormously over recent times. In fact, 10 years ago, my job as a web copywriter didn’t exist — not in its current form, anyway. Will I be doing the same thing in 10 years? I hope so but no doubt in a modified form. That’s life; there’s no point in fighting it.
The storm that never ends
I attended a presentation by ex-broadcast journalist Alistair Wilkinson recently. Alistair described the dramatic changes he’s witnessed during his career as a “storm that never ends.”
Think about it. Not so long ago, we needed the media to tell us what was happening in the world. They shaped public opinion and wielded considerable power. The media wasn’t dubbed the “fourth estate” for no reason.
But something happened. A redistribution of power took place. It started slowly, but like an avalanche, has gathered momentum that seems unlikely to wane.
That “something,” of course, is the spectacular rise of the internet, social media and the devices we use to communicate. Today, anyone can be a publisher, to report news, to express opinions.
During his presentation, Alistair said good journalists uncover and report on the story first. Well, the immediacy of social media has made this increasingly difficult for them to achieve. How often have you read a news story based on Facebook comments? How often do you know about a story well before it makes the six o’clock news?
The elements of journalism are the same
Thankfully, some things never change in life: the ingredients of a great song, the value of friendship. And though its dissemination seems to change daily, the elements of good journalism remain the same. One of those elements is the story.
Stories in business
Stories are powerful because people remember them. A study by the London School of Economics found most people remember only 5 – 10% of what they are told if given facts and figures. Tell them a story, though, and they will remember 65 – 70%. This is one of the reasons stories are so powerful in business.
Why do people remember stories? Well, stories make you feel. They help you empathise. They transport you to another place and time. And in a world bloated with information, much of it useless, stories help you understand.
The human brain is hardwired for storytelling. Ever since our first grunts morphed into language, mankind has created stories to share ideas. Think about The Tortoise and the hare. What’s the message? Well, if we persevere, we’ll get there in the end.
Become a publisher
As I said, anyone can be a publisher. It’s never been easier. All you need is a website and a social media profile. And there’s no need to court the media to take interest in and then interpret your story. You’ve got control.
Case studies, in written or video form, are a way in which businesses can tell their stories. They are ideal for explaining, in real terms, the benefits products or services provide. You see, by explaining benefits by telling a story, you’re not telling, you’re showing.
For example, if you sell weight-loss products, don’t just say “Our product enables you to lose 10 kilograms in five weeks.” Tell a story. Document a customer’s experiences using your product.
Make the story real. Describe the health problems they battled due to being overweight. Explain the consequences if they hadn’t taken action. And don’t sanitise it — all good stories have a touch of drama. If your customer was seduced by a sausage roll along the way, say so!
Here is what a case study should include:
- Client background
- The problem client was facing
- Your client’s goal
- Your approach to solving the problem
- Problems along the way that you resolved
- The outcome (with testimonials)
- The benefits to your client.
Stories in HR
Stories can form the foundation of a company’s values — their reason for being.
Many of the world’s most successful companies have used stories to romanticise how and why they were established. And they use these stories to build and maintain a healthy organisational culture.
The story of Honda is well known, particularly if you read books from the likes of the effervescent motivator Tony Robbins. In Honda’s story, founder, Soichiro Honda, persevered through crippling setbacks, including World War II, as he strove to build the company we know today. And look at KFC— at the age of 65, Colonel Sanders’ special recipe was rejected 1000 times before he finally tasted success.
Stories about a company’s origins can be used in all kinds of ways: About pages, company brochures, videos and presentations. Last year I wrote a coffee table book for an aviation company to celebrate 30 years in business. The book was given to employees and clients. It was a nice touch.
It’s inevitable: many of today’s practices will eventually become quaint and redundant — thanks to our insatiable hunger for ‘bigger and better.’ Regardless, the power of a good story will never diminish. I’m sure Bob Dylan will agree.