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 master data storyteller and the Founder & MD of the consultancy Insight Agents. His purpose is to help organisations make smarter use of data, talk Human, and sound like people. An established and sought-after trainer, keynote speaker, and podcaster, he is the founder and host of Data Malarkey podcast and chair of I-COM’s Data Storytelling Council. He’s a Fellow of the Market Reserach Society, the RSA, and the Professional Speaking Association.
Sam is the author of the ‘Using Data Better’ trilogy of books, all published by Routledge. These include the 2018 best-seller Narrative by Numbers, 2020’s critically-acclaimed sequel, How To Be Insightful , and 2022’s eagerly-anticipated Asking Smarter Questions. In 2023, Insight Agents launched Using Data Smarter, a comprehensive, online training course based on all three books.
Find out more about Sam’s approach to data storytelling in this 15-minute video.