A few years ago, I was taking a class about the kite flying festival in India — Makar Sankranti. The students were from Std 7 of a Hindi medium public school in Mumbai. Before I could start giving facts and sharing my knowledge of the festival, I asked the students to share what they already knew about it.
Some of them gave general responses — we go to fly kites with our friends, we need manjha (a special thread) to fly the kites etc. But there was one child among them who said something very different… He said, ‘the manjha we use can hurt and kill the birds in the sky’.
I was touched by the boy’s sensitivity. As a teacher, it gave me new perspective — it gave me insight into the compassion that children can also feel; it demonstrated the depth of their thinking.
Through my story I’ve essentially done a few things:
· Told you I’ve worked in the social sector.
· Given you a glimpse of my personality — I like teaching.
· Shared a personal experience.
But one of the most important things I’ve done, is connected with you. Be it a person, an organization, or a brand, stories can connect you to the other.
When you tell a story, you share a bit of yourself. You bring into play your own life experiences. This creates a certain level of authenticity and trust…you allow people to enter your life or your organisation’s life, and make it their own.
At its most fundamental level, storytelling can engage and inform…but at its highest level, a story can create a transformation in the reader/audience.
All brands have a deeper power than that of just being consumed; they have the power to impact lives… They can transform the way consumers live and think. Moreover, they can encourage consumers to become their brand ambassadors, taking the story forward to their own networks. To trigger that moment of transformation, and help them make that call to action, storytelling becomes a powerful tool.
Every organization, brand, or entrepreneur already has a ready repository of content to dip into… The primary story is that of the founder/s and the vision with which they began. This is essentially the story of inception, which can often be an inspiring one. For example, the recent movie, The Founder, tells the tale of how Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, discovered a tiny burger joint — that prided itself on speed and quality — and converted it into a billion-dollar global franchise.
The next could be stories of challenges, those that organisations faced while setting up — or those they continue to tackle— due to governmental policies, lack of infrastructure, resources, competition etc. These stories essentially give a glimpse of what the work in the organization entails, and can provide great insight for funders.
As the entity grows and impacts its audience, it can then collect stories of change… Even a simple one-two line testimonial, or story of transformation, helps showcase how the consumer’s life has been impacted. For example — ‘Now with the grocery app, I save almost one hour per day as I don’t have to take a detour from work, travel to the market, and shop. I go straight home and spend more time with my family.’
Thus, building a story bank and telling stories effectively can help you as a brand or organization connect more deeply, collaborate more effectively, and transform the lives you touch.