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Storytelling - why successful companies tell stories

Claudia Bracher Wolfensberger, Partner

Told stories make it possible for us to experience and understand the world. Good - i.e. successful - stories inspire thoughts or actions and thus change our world.

No doubt you remember your favorite stories from childhood. Good stories captivate, inspire, create images in the mind and transport emotions. They connect us with our environment, create meaning for our lives. And they often accompany us throughout our lives.

Good stories open our eyes to big questions that occupy many people. They show us how to understand meaning and values. This knowledge can be formulated quite explicitly. But very often - and usually even more effectively packaged - such messages are conveyed implicitly, i.e. indirectly.

In the course of evolution, our brains have learned to remember and decode stories. Pure facts, on the other hand, are much harder to remember. Any memory coach will therefore advise you to wrap a series of facts in a story so that you can retain them better.

What makes Coca-Cola different from Pepsi? The taste? The packaging? The price? In truth, it's their stories that differentiate the two and thus make them distinctive, even though they are so similar. Stories that are retold over and over again, yet always convey the same emotions, values and basic attitudes.

On closer inspection, the greatest stories of humanity are surprisingly simple in structure. They are about good and evil, love and hate, princesses and dragons, longing and fulfillment.

Already Aristotle recognized that - no matter if comedy, poetry, epic, tragedy or drama - the structure of a story basically follows a scheme of 3 acts. In the first act, the conflict or story is set up. In the second, a twist and the climax follow. And in the final act, the conflict is finally resolved. Of course, there are more complex structural models and more sophisticated plots.

In corporate communications, strategically applied storytelling is indispensable. It is not about deceiving others in order to present oneself in the best light. Such intentions are quickly seen through and only have a more devastating counterproductive effect.

Sustained good storytelling, on the other hand, strategically tells why something is being done and who it benefits and how.


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