The Science Behind Good Storytelling

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good storytelling science

Good storytelling cannot be exaggerated. Perhaps the marketing term “storytelling” is overused, but its premise is not.

Potential customers and clients don’t just connect with your brand’s mission; they need a narrative that’s easy to align with … a story that’s easy to share.

In business, everything’s better with good storytelling.

Here’s how to achieve that.


What’s Your Public Narrative?

Is anything harder than talking about yourself?

Don’t answer that. My Facebook feed tells me plenty of people are all too happy to talk about themselves … incessantly!

For we businesspeople, though, talking about our company can be a real challenge.

What’s your public narrative? According to Harvard Professor Marshall Ganz, there are three parts to good storytelling.

  1. Your story or the story of self
  2. The story of us
  3. The story of now (aka: your call-to-action)

(Read Marshall’s entire thesis if you’re into marketing and/or psychology!)

Your Story

Obviously, I can’t tell your story for you. I will say, choose wisely.

We are inundated with content and “noise.” By 2017, our global average media consumption is set to rise to 506 minutes a day.



Know what your hook is to ensure you get clicked and you’ve got a pocket full of good storytelling.

Use your emotional appeal to be remembered (here’s how I often tell my story).

The Company Story

The story of us should get into company and team particulars and include:

  1. Vision
  2. Mission
  3. Values
  4. Processes or specialties
  5. People (company culture)
Use these 6 pillars when crafting your company story. #StorytellingClick To Tweet

The Story Of Now / Your Call To Action 

Aim to use individual stories (client testimonials, anyone?) to establish peer-to-peer connections between your potential customers and the clients you serve now.

Thinking we versus me can certainly boost your conversion rate! And it helps combat sucky storytelling, too.

Good Storytelling Has Patterns

In the 90s, legendary writer Kurt Vonnegut said, in part, that:

  • Stories follow emotional arcs
  • These arcs can have different shapes
  • Some shapes are better suited to storytelling than others

Watch this video of Vonnegut explaining the 6 emotional arcs of good storytelling (he’s really quite funny!):

If you decided against watching the video (you’re missing out!), the six basic emotional arcs are these:

  1. A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll
  2. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet
  3. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut
  4. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus
  5. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella
  6. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus

Which arcs are most clicked? Stories that follow Icarus or Oedipus arcs or are more complex generally have more appeal to audiences and are considered good storytelling.

What will the building blocks of your company story be?

The Case For Being A People Pleaser

People have always loved good stories.

And even though this is your business case, you’re still pitching to people. Don’t forget that.

My favorite thing to tell clients when it comes to good storytelling is this:

“People can outspend you. Companies can steal your ideas and plagiarize your content. But what they can’t do is tell your unique story. That is ultimately your ace in hole and the one thing people can’t copy and make their own. Make sure your story makes people feel something; make sure it makes them want to start a conversation with you!”

The case for adding an emotional appeal in storytelling is to ensure people #ThinkConversation after hearing it. Click To Tweet

Forget about product features, facts and figures. Learn instead to make a connection with people by:

  • Making an emotional appeal
  • Selling the experience and not the product
  • Showing off your personality
  • Building trust and loyalty
  • Thinking WE versus ME

While talking about yourself can seem uncomfortable, good storytelling can make it easier by relaying personal experiences that build trust and passion in others.

When thinking about your narrative, be sure to decide on patterns and arcs, but also be sure to put people at the center of every story you tell.

Which companies would you say have the best storytelling skills and why? Let us know in the comments section below!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Branding, Business 101, Storytelling
Tags: branding, emotional marketing, good storytelling, storytelling, storytelling skills
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