All this week at Insight Agents, we’ve been marking the sixteenth annual National Storytelling Week with a series of blogs that highlight what gets in the way of impactful brand storytelling.
We commissioned our friends at Sussex University’s Innovation Centre to ask those in charge of storytelling at some of the Britain’s biggest retailers what they believe prevents them from communicating better. This cross-section of marketing and communications leaders in one of the most vibrant and complex sectors of UK plc spoke with one voice. They called out consistency, jargon and authenticity as the three biggest obstacles to telling better stories.
Consistency: particularly consistency across channels, with multiple departments responsible for different elements of the marketing mix. Whatever sector of business a brand inhabits, clear and consistent messaging across all channels is vital in providing authentic, believable and coherent customer experience; the ABC of customer experience, if you will.
Jargon: innovation is driven by R&D and technical divisions, and those responsible for innovation are reluctant to have their explanations – as they see it – dumbed down by comms and marketing folk. They fear the complexity and nuances of their innovations will be lost if they’re expressed simply and jargon-free. What we know is that insisting on jargon is the fast-track to turning listeners off.
Authenticity: truly authentic brands tell a coherent story at every touchpoint. Brands – especially in retail – like Burberry. Brands like M&S. And, of course, brands like Apple. They’re memorable because they connect with us both rationally and emotionally. This is significant because this approach enables us to identify with their message or mission as a reality we inherently trust. In the same way as we trust the people we trust.
And as this busy week draws to a close, we’ve pulled together the different strands of our story about story into a simple infographic. Do feel free to download it, here, and, if you find it helpful, share it widely with colleagues, clients and collaborators.
For us Agents of Insight, the more consistent stories are across multiple channels, the less jargon seeps into corporate narrative, and the more authentic and human companies can be, the more impactful their communication. If we can help the comms community – through our day-to-day work with our valued clients, and broader, through our blogs and outreach – then at least we can say our work here has begun.
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.