Impact Story Telling

Ever considered storytelling to be an essential part of effective communication?

Storytelling engages the emotions, builds trust and influences the motivation to buy. ‘Storytelling’ is interchangeable with ‘why’ as the same concept with different packaging. Simon Sinek explains this phenomenon in his Ted talk ‘Start with why- how great leaders inspire action’. He emphasises the impact created when businesses communicate by structuring the marketing message in the opposite order to the structure regularly used by most businesses. Sinek advises the following structure:

  1. Why – start with your story of why the business came into existence, what sparked the idea? follow with

  2. How the business is different and then

  3. What the business does

Apple is provided as an example, where their why is challenging the status quo, their how is the unique design and simplicity, their what is computers. If this order were reversed, it would be generic and uninspiring.

Sinek also explains that there is a biological reason for communicating in the order of why, how, what. The center and middle parts of the brain, termed the ‘Limbic brain’, controls emotions such as trust and loyalty; as well as behavior and decision-making. Targeting the limbic brain in your communications through why and how messaging engages the emotions and creates a stronger desire to action. The front of the brain, termed the ‘Neo Cortex’, then translates these emotions into language and rationalises the message when you conclude with what.

For social enterprises, it may be confusing that communicating the reason your enterprise came into being is more important than what your business is doing to make a social change. As important as it is to communicate the impact of your social enterprise, facts and figures are not engaging the emotions and therefore not stimulating action effectively. Start with the why, then how your business is different, then what your business does for society.

A great source of storytelling inspiration is the social enterprise ‘Thankyou Water’ whose founder Dan Flynn has also presented a Ted talk. Flynn speaks about reading a statistic that 900 million people in the world don’t have access to safe water, but still not being moved deeply because he couldn’t conceptualise and translate that number into an emotional story. Flynn decided to research individual stories and was moved by the stories of young people, of an age at which he could relate, who spend their entire day walking to collect water for their families. This was the moment that his why was engaged. Most people wouldn’t go that extra step and research individual stories. Most wouldn’t get past the what stage of hearing a statistic. As social entrepreneurs, there’s something that has caught your attention and engaged your why. This is your story, so share that story and you’ll find that others will be inspired to action.

Take the first step toward formulating and communicating your compelling story of why by attending the ‘What’s Your Impact Story?’ workshop on the 28th of February 2015, hosted by Resonate and World Wellness Group and facilitated by Digital Storytellers. This is an opportunity to get professional help crafting your impact story. Follow the link to learn more:

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The Resonate Team