Last week was the Society for Storytelling’s annual ‘National Storytelling Week’. Up and down the country, dozens of events celebrated the power and impact of the oral storytelling tradition. In schools, hospitals, workplaces, libraries, and care homes. At Insight Agents – our corporate and brand storytelling business – we support the Society in its mission and its programme.
To mark last week’s event, we commissioned researchers at Sussex University’s Catalyst scheme to identify the best and worst brand language found on the internet today.
In the course of this research, we have identified eight principles that companies should follow if they aspire to be heroes (and not villains) of corporate communication. These are:
- Keep it simple. Using fewer words per sentence and using fewer, long words are two simple ways to make your content easier to understand.
- Beware the Curse of Knowledge. Don’t assume that just because you know your subject – your industry, your technology, how your incredible product works – anyone else will.
- Use data and statistics to tell a story. Numbers and facts aren’t memorable. But they’re a vital foundation if you’re going to create an impactful, evidence-based narrative.
- Don’t state the obvious to fill space. This should go without saying, but the democratisation of communications means that some businesses talk more and more, but say less and less.
- Don’t waffle to mask a lack of substance. Style is good, but don’t let it come before or instead of real substance.
- Observe the cocktail party rule – and avoid boasting. If you want to be boring, talk about yourself. If you want to be interesting talk about what your audience wants to hear.
- Talk human. Companies are abstract entities, but they’re made up – primarily – of people. So, their language should be human, too.
- And above all, tell great stories. Follow these simple rules of thumb, and the words you use will be the driving force behind your capacity to tell great stories.
Our new report, Heroes & Villains, is now available to download. Just follow this link and complete the very short form you’ll find there. We hope you enjoy it, and we trust you find it helps you a craft better corporate narrative.
Sam Knowles is a data storyteller and the Founder & MD of Insight Agents. His purpose is to help organisations talk Human and sound like people. An established and sought-after trainer, speaker, and podcaster, he is the co-founder and co-host of the Small Data Forum podcast and chair of I-COM’s Data Storytelling Council.
Sam is the author of the critically-acclaimed book Narrative by Numbers: How to Tell Powerful & Purposeful Stories with Data (Routledge, 2018, with more at www.narrativebynumbers.com). This has just been followed by a sequel, How To Be Insightful: Unlocking the Superpower that Drives Innovation (also Routledge, May 2020, and more at www.HowToBeInsightful.com).
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