Why Your Audience Needs Stories: It’s a Brain Thing

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Like me, I’m certain there have been many occasions while you’ve been unable to modify off that in any other case terrible film or put down that badly written pulp novel (Dan Brown, I’m taking a look at you).

Meanwhile, one other technically sensible movie or e-book with distinctive manufacturing values simply can’t maintain your consideration.

The distinction is the story.

At Content Marketing World 2018, Joe Lazauskas — head of content material at Contently and co-author of The Storytelling Edge — talked to me about narratives, neurons, and … Jason Biggs.

CCO: Why is neuroscience the perfect argument for entrepreneurs to hone their storytelling expertise?

JL: Storytelling is seen as this wishy-washy ephemeral factor, however that’s truly not true. As human beings we’re programmed for tales. They’re a part of who we’re. It’s how we developed to know our place on this planet earlier than we had written language, how we handed on classes for the place to seek out meals, or what threats have been coming for us, or the right way to construct relationships inside our tribes and our households. As human beings, we’re programmed to answer tales.

As human beings we’re programmed to answer tales, says @JoeLazauskas. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

A number of various things occur after we hear a actually good story. The first is that the neural exercise in our mind will increase fivefold. Stories illuminate the town of our thoughts. Essentially our brains run on electrical pulses, and after we hear tales our brains mild up.

Neuroscientists have this saying that neurons that fireside collectively, wire collectively. So, after we’re listening to a story and our mind is lighting up, you may have all of those neurons which can be then wiring collectively, which triggers us to recollect extra of the data we’re getting.

Stories do one other factor: They set off the discharge of this neurochemical referred to as oxytocin, which is thought in some circles because the love drug. About 10 years in the past, all we actually knew about oxytocin is that it’s launched when, say, a mom is along with her child. But what we’ve found since then, via the work of neuroscientists like Dr. Paul Zak, is that tales set off the discharge of oxytocin in a lot the identical manner.

Stories make us keep in mind they usually make us care. The cause content material advertising and marketing works isn’t artsy-fartsy. It’s as a result of our brains are programmed for tales.

Stories make us keep in mind they usually make us care, says @JoeLazauskas. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

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CCO: Isn’t it extra correct to say, “Some content marketing works because it uses storytelling?” A number of branded content material nonetheless shuns storytelling in favor of graphs, stats, feature-led product demonstrations, and so forth.

JL: Notice I didn’t say our brains are programmed for white papers, PDFs, and one-sheets. Our brains are programmed for tales, however not simply any story. You can consider a actually boring relative or coworker who’s droned on on the bar about some story of his fishing journey that you just by no means wished to listen to once more. But different occasions you get captivated by a story. It’s solely these actually good tales that make our brains mild up.

It’s solely these actually good tales that make our brains mild up, says JoeLazauskas. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

This doesn’t imply there’s no room for extra down-funnel content material in content material advertising and marketing, however your case research don’t need to be a actually dry PDF. They might be fascinating, inventive, and illuminating narratives that inform the story of the wrestle your buyer faces in a manner that’ll resonate with the individuals you’re making an attempt to promote to.

The story about your product and the place your organization comes from doesn’t simply need to be a listing of options. It can speak in regards to the values that you’ve as a firm, why you come to work every single day to do what you do, what you imagine the way forward for your business seems to be like. These are the essential parts of storytelling that may be pervasive all through all varieties of content material advertising and marketing.

So typically, after we get caught simply interested by the enterprise outcomes, we conflate actually boring, dry stuff with the stuff that’ll truly work. This white paper — it has graphs, it makes use of educational language, we sound tremendous critical, it’s authoritative. No, it’s not. It’s boring. No one’s going to wish to learn it.

There are 4 parts of storytelling: relatability, novelty, fluency, and pressure. Fluency is without doubt one of the key issues. Most U.S. adults can’t learn at a highschool stage, however most individuals don’t actually like to learn stuff that’s at a highschool stage. Hemingway wrote at fourth grade stage. We actually like content material that’s tremendous simple for us to immerse ourselves in and the place there’s a actually low barrier to entry between us and the story we’re being advised.

four parts of #storytelling: relatability, novelty, fluency, and pressure, says @JoeLazauskas. #CMWorld Click To Tweet


CCO: When a boss insists that the details ought to inform the story, how can entrepreneurs persuade them that stats and graphs don’t a story make?

JL: I at all times problem entrepreneurs, particularly those we work with, to assume: “If you didn’t work here, would you read this?” That’s an essential query we needs to be asking ourselves with something that we make.

Chances are that piece begins out “According to Forrester, 54% of marketers plan to invest more in their content budget this year.” It places us to sleep.

Ask your self for those who did not work for the model, would you learn this #content material? @JoeLazauskas #CMWorld Click To Tweet

But inform the story of [someone] your viewers can relate to, that they’ll see themselves in, who had the identical sort of cussed boss that you just do, who had the identical challenges with authorized compliance that you just do — and inform the story of how she was a hero and overcame them — that story’s going to suck me in a lot faster than the story that begins with stats.

Those stats can nonetheless come into play as supporting proof down the road. We’re emotional, [but] we’re additionally rational individuals. “OK, this was compelling, this excited me, but is it legit?”

That’s the place the statistics are available in.

CCO: So, entrepreneurs shouldn’t depend on the reader to interpret summary info and ideas. Instead, they need to inform the story of a related particular person so the mind can visualize and expertise the data vicariously.

JL: Yeah, you place your self of their footwear. With any story, relatability is the primary and most important factor. We are programmed to answer tales that we are able to see ourselves in, mechanically. That’s why after we’re youngsters we actually like teen films, whether or not it was the Molly Ringwald period or the Jason Biggs’ American Pie period. I watched these films nonstop as a result of, as a teenager, I noticed myself in them. We’re consistently drawn to movies which can be about protagonists who we are able to see ourselves in.

The identical factor is true in any kind of content material. When you’re talking to your viewers, you both wish to current a primary protagonist within the story — it could possibly be a shopper, a buyer, a thought chief, somebody who did one thing tremendous cool for an additional firm that they’ll see themselves in — or, because the writer, you wish to communicate to them straight.

One of the simplest methods is simply by concentrating on the precise individuals you wish to attain within the headline. This is what BuzzFeed did to actually develop their viewers. One of the neatest issues they did was to have a lot of articles like 21 Things That You Would Only See at Stanford. So, you’re a big, worldwide publication like BuzzFeed. Why are you concentrating on simply this area of interest of Stanford college students? Well, it’s extraordinarily relatable content material. Anyone from Stanford who sees that piece, they’re going to click on on it, and it’s all inside jokes about Stanford. Then what are they going to do? They’re going to share that piece with their networks, which is stuffed with Stanford college students, who’re then going to click on on it and share with their networks, and it goes on and on and on.

This was a actually efficient tactic for BuzzFeed. Even although Stanford college students are solely a small proportion of the inhabitants, they nonetheless quantity within the tons of of hundreds while you counted all of the alumni.

The identical factor can work whether or not you’re concentrating on small-business house owners in manufacturing otherwise you’re concentrating on younger physicians in Canada. If you’re creating a piece of content material that’s tremendous tailor-made to their issues, has inside info, and speaks in a voice they actually perceive, you’re very more likely to join with them.

CCO: Some entrepreneurs see using neuroscience and behavioral psychology as synonymous with manipulation. What would you say to those that argue in opposition to utilizing emotion and persuasive strategies to use the mind’s pure wiring and bypass its logic and cause?

JL: This is what we’ve at all times achieved. We’ve at all times appealed to individuals’s feelings. It’s what we do in each interplay we now have as human beings. If I need you to love me, I don’t begin a dialog and say, “Hi, I’m Joe. I was born in New Jersey. I live in New York now.” We don’t simply rattle off rote details about ourselves. That’s what makes us seem to be robots. I’d inform you about how, “I just got here. I was actually just in Hawaii. A hurricane was 80 miles from our hotel, and the hotel was telling us that we were going to die.” That tells you one thing a little bit extra about me, my humorousness, the way in which I deal with conditions, in my hopes of constructing some kind of reference to you.

The cause we inform tales is to construct connections with individuals. I don’t see it as manipulation, however somewhat the very human factor we do in each dialog we now have.

The cause we inform tales is to construct connections with individuals, says @JoeLazauskas. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

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Cover picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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