Lately it’s always the same story.
A client presents a list of a dozen message points, each of which is more necessary, invaluable, and non-negotiable than the one before it. Every last one absolutely has to make its way into a 60 second video spot.
As producers of cause marketing and CSR communications, we welcome corporations’ desire to divulge the details of their sustainability and CSR programs. What’s frustrating is when this new demand for corporate transparency clouds what should always remain transparent. Corporations and nonprofits alike seem to be forgetting the one thing about people that will always stay the same:
They don’t want to be bored to death.
Telling an effective and engaging story will always trump mere facts, figures and bullet points – regardless of their quantity or how praiseworthy they might be. Whether you are communicating through video, via a website, or a PowerPoint presentation, within any medium, a story will help to enhance your message.
Rather than listing facts about the world water crisis, this video tells the story of why participants are inspired to “run for water.”
This isn’t something that we had to wait around for advertising or technology to teach us. Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication we have. Teachers use storytelling to assist in the learning process, lawyers tell stories to help them win over juries, and parents tell stories to their children as a means of illustrating moral principles. As human beings, we are all hard-wired to love stories. Recently it has been established as scientific fact that an audience draws a far more positive reaction and lasting understanding from a story than it does mere statistics.
Despite its vintage, storytelling is more important than ever in the modern world. Today everyone has so many distractions coming at them from all angles, getting the brain to concentrate completely on one thing is almost impossible. Providing a narrative remains one of the few, surefire means of getting the brain to focus.
At present the basic principals of advertising and marketing are undergoing a profound rethinking and revision. Image and lifestyle-based advertising is slowly giving way to new efforts that try and connect to stakeholders on a more 3-dimensional, spiritual, and moral level. As speaking to an audience’s core values becomes more and more of a necessity for advertising, storytelling will become indispensable as the tool which gets us there.
The story doesn’t always have to be real. This video tells the story of what life would be like in New York City without access to clean drinking water.
Having worked in CSR communications for more than a decade, it’s our greatest hope that this new wave in advertising spreads like mad. But as businesses begin to revise their definition of success, we feel obliged to remind us that the primacy of storytelling as what moves and motivates people is not something open to revision. It’s storytelling that can and will provide the necessary moral and spiritual connection that today’s stakeholders are waiting for. As corporate social responsibility continues to evolve, this is the most important fact we should keep in mind.