Insight Storytelling

So, why tell stories?

Let’s be frank, a lot of market research is dull… Correction, quite often the way its presented is tedious, for example the 100 slide presentation or ‘data download’. The hours of our lives we won’t get back! However, if key storytelling principles are observed, research presentations can become an illuminating and empowering experience.

So, what are these storytelling ‘principles’? Well they aren’t magic. They are techniques and methods that we use daily in our conversations and communications. The key points are:

– Knowing your audience’s needs, traits, preferences and expectations – base the story around them.
– Nailing the structure: Delivering a logical & engaging story arc.
– Providing context: Interweaving relevant, insight and/or cross-vertical learnings.
– Employing visual aids: Being impactful in the use of appropriate rich media.
– Communicating effectively and emotionally.
– Being commercial: Viewing through the prism of its tactical & strategic business impact.
– Being credible and authentic.

Plotting the story

So, how do we go about ‘finding’ the story? The core narrative that threads its way through our report, presentation, talk or video?

Firstly, think ‘big picture’. Don’t dive straight into the minutiae of the data breaks and/or the transcripts. Certainly, sub-plot elements will contribute to the success of the whole, but the principal narrative is derived from overview thinking.

Our story must grab attention and reward its listeners with an exciting and thrill-packed narrative. Our aims should be memorability and a ready call-to-action. In practical terms, this means…

Punchiness – If our story outlives its welcome for reason of length, poor focus or too much detail, it will have failed in its principal objective – communications effectiveness. The audience should get the message the first time. It needs to be action orientated, interactive and focused.

Narrative structure

Prologue – Context is everything. This is the backdrop against which your characters will play out their roles. Imagine Oliver twist without the backstreets of London. Understanding of what will come later is enhanced by a clear exposition of our environment and its history. Through effective scene-setting we can move from two into three dimensions, breathing life and understanding into the findings – the principal plot. This analogy maps completely across into the market research world. However, be wary of audience knowledge. Old news is rarely good news.

Dialogue – Quite simply, we encourage interaction with the audience at all stages. Heckling will require handling, questions will require answering and requests will require responses. But that’s part and parcel of good storytelling for stakeholders.

Epilogue – Like any compelling film franchise, the story doesn’t end at the conclusion of the initial cinematic epic, there will very probably be a sequel. Certainly it is in your best interests to position your story-telling to allow for the possibility of a next step. What are we…, more importantly, what are they, to do with the knowledge they have gained through our storytelling?

Incorporating an ‘activation’ workshop element, as part of an insight programme helps maintain and nurture the value of the narrative. If we have told our story well, the audience will be keen for more.

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