Why do we keep hurling statistics at issues when trying to change people’s thinking when we know storytelling works better? Probably because we keep thinking that we’re supposed to be changing minds. The truth is, storytelling doesn’t even try to do that. As a content strategy, it’s after something much smarter and more powerful than the mind.
Stories change strangers into readers
Comfort the disturbed; disturb the comfortable.
An old wire service adage, this principle of disrupting the status quo is at the heart of good narrative. But before we even go there, whether for a brand, a cause, or an idea, to reshape opinions and teach new behaviors, content has to start off by getting people to look up and listen. How do you get complete strangers to pay attention? Well, you don’t treat them like strangers. You make it personal. Because, in the end, all business is personal, even if it’s an idea or a cause you’re trying to sell.
Here’s how it works:
First, what is disturbing readers’ comfort? Or what is making them so comfortable, they can’t relate to the problem? Right out of the gate, let them know you get it; that you get them.
Second, what do they care about most? You see, it’s never just a technical problem you have to solve when you’re trying to influence action; it’s also a people problem. Whether it’s their own jobs or a crisis affecting other lives, they are invested because they care. . .
. . . and because caring is an emotion, you don’t want to bring facts and data to their heads – not exclusively anyway. In the head, people just want to be right. And, by golly, people will scroll through a lot of statistics to find the data that proves their point. Stories, on the other hand, capture our imaginations and call up our emotions. They make an experience personal because we look for ourselves in other people’s stories. To find agreement, use stories to reach into readers’ hearts and guts. That where they go to emote – to feel good, to feel at home.
Third, whether we’re willing to say it out loud or not, humans really do like change. What most of us want – from our work, from our relationships, from life – is to evolve so that we continue to be valued. We often feel a sense of elevation when we allow for a change of heart because there’s no right or wrong there, only belonging.
– not because it changes minds but because it changes hearts.
In the end, with all of us working, playing, socializing, and keeping each other company online, it turns out our stories connect us in many personal ways. We lead. We follow. We like. We respond. We reach out. We make friends and talk about problems and build communities that connect us to resources that help us solve problems. We story our individual experiences to inspire each other and welcome each other in.
People will change their hearts. Just start with a good story.