Today’s all-pervasive digital connectivity may in fact be creating a sense of disconnectedness, and a return to an older form of communication, storytelling, is called for to build trusting relationships with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders.
“Among this endless stimulation, we search for anchors and meaning to reassure us. We usually find this through stories, because they personalise and humanise what might otherwise seem anonymous,” says Nicolas Constantinesco, who leads The Power of Storytelling a new program at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).
Previously on IEDP.com, Kevin Murray has pointed out that “We are wired to listen, imaginatively, when we are told stories. Good stories get under our cynical radar and touch our hearts. The best stories tell us about customer experiences, good and bad, or make heroes out of employees delivering the values of the organization.”
This is a message that must be resonating with executives, because RSM’s new program has proved to be very popular having oversubscribed for its launch in April 2015. Initially the one-day program was planned to only be repeated in October, but RSM has added two extra dates in June and August
Some people are naturally good story tellers, coming across as credible and persuasive, but others are not. So it is good to hear of a program that takes the premise that crafting and delivering a compelling story is a skill that can be learned.
As well as improving personal impact, being able to engage people with a story is an increasingly useful business skill with a profound relationship to leadership. “Stories rekindle relationships and make business personal,” says Constantinesco. “Good businesses build and sustain relationships with their customers and communities through stories. And employees find belonging at work through stories.”
In terms of the customer, the old advertising adage ‘Sell the Dream’ (rather than product features) is a good example. People are inspired by what makes them feel better about themselves and their decision to make a purchase. The advert for a Bentley Continental shows a beautiful young couple driving along the Cote d’Azur on a sunny day, rather than extolling the virtues of the car's engine or interior features. It uses a story albeit in video format to make an emotional connection with the customer.
“When you engage with a company, you want to feel connected. People are drawn to companies with which they feel a personal connection,” says Constantinesco.
The Power of Storytelling program at RSM shows how storytelling was used in history, its contemporary usage, when to use storytelling as a tool, and what stories to tell. During the program, participants explore techniques to enhance impact and optimise their storytelling skills, how to create and structure stories, and how storytelling can be used to create business value.