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Making Messages Resonate with the Power of Storytelling

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A media interview is an opportunity to raise awareness of your organization’s key messages on an issue or cause. But how do you make sure those messages resonate and are remembered? Storytelling is one of the most effective tactics to engage and connect with your audience in a way that’s compelling and memorable.

A statistic that’s often cited is that you are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it’s been packaged with a story. Whether my clients want to increase awareness of the vital role their specialty plays in healthcare, highlight a new service or product, or inspire people to take action, I work with their spokespeople to practice using stories that make an impact. Think about how you describe your day to a spouse or friend. You tell stories. What do you remember from the morning news? It’s most likely a story about a person who experienced something life-changing, or even simply funny, sad, or unusual (check out A Story About a Story).

Stories are experiences, and sharing them creates an emotional connection that speaks directly to the hearts and minds of your audience.    

Stories are also effective in supporting your case or message because they can’t be refuted. Someone can disagree with your opinion or even challenge your facts, but they can’t claim your experience didn’t happen. They also make data and numbers come alive. When used together, they resonate on both an intellectual and emotional level. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when developing and telling powerful stories:

  • Character. Stories are about people so your narrative should have a main character. If you have permission and signed consent you can use real names, or even better, have your patient, customer or whoever you’re talking about, join you and tell his or her own story. If you can’t name your main character, use an unidentified person who is a typical example. Or, be your own main character. Want people to use sunscreen, lower their salt intake, protect the environment? Tell us what you do.

  • Visual descriptors. Using descriptive words will help paint a vivid picture for your audience. “A little boy who loved baseball so much he brought his mitt with him everywhere” is far more descriptive than just “A little boy who loved baseball.…”

  • Passion. Storytelling is most effective when you evoke emotion and demonstrate your passion for your subject through your story. It allows you to connect with people on a deeper level, humanizing you and your message while simultaneously building credibility.

  • Brevity. Keep it short. Practice telling your story in 30 seconds, then try 10 seconds. Tailor the length to different situations – in a print interview, you can provide some detail and be a little more expansive. In a two-minute live interview, or a taped interview that will be edited into 10-second soundbites, get to the point quickly.

  • Plan ahead. Build a library, and when preparing for an interview, have some stories in mind. Don’t stop at just one good story. Telling several stories during in an interview is even more effective and reinforcing than telling only one.

  • Connect the dots. Make sure your story supports your key message and that people understand the context and the reason for the story. An effective way to introduce a story is to state your key message and say something like, “Here’s a quick story that illustrates what I mean.” Or “This happens to thousands of people a year. Here’s one example. . .”

The power of storytelling is not just effective in working with traditional media. Use storytelling in presentations, at meetings, in social media commentary or anywhere you need to connect, inspire and motivate. 

Want to learn more? Take a look at our Why Tell Stories infographic.