The importance of emotion and connection in business storytelling

Storytellers in the business world can engage audiences deeply with the right balance of emotion and key facts.

A great speaker will skilfully hypnotise their audience as they whisk them off on a journey into a certain subject matter. It is only at specific points during the speaker’s performance, when they choose to, do they bring the audience back towards the key learnings that the individual can take away from the speech. The greatest speakers can do this effortlessly without the signposts that usually accompany this segment.

Using emotion can help develop audiences

We are fascinated by the interconnectivity between the role of storytelling, an event’s key objectives and the balance between the two. This is the classic trade-off between performance and wow factor on the day, which I define as short-term impact, against the long-term impact and changing patterns that the speech can have on an individual or a company.

Fundamentally, in my opinion, this balance is the ability to utilise emotion and feeling to help audiences learn and develop.

The story behind the product

The power of storytelling is well known and is all around us in our everyday lives. The emotional attachment we feel to ‘stuff’ is generated through the power of the story that lies behind it. As Abraham Lincoln said ‘In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.’

Further reading on storytelling

We thrive on stories and draw our memories and attachments through these moments. I look at my circle of friends, especially those friendships I formed in the early years of my schooling and decades later, and I ask myself – what is it that I have in common with you?  It is not necessarily the life decisions we share, or even beliefs or politics, but rather the common bond that comes from shared experiences, from memories and from stories that we go through, reminisce and the exclusivity we own together.

So what does this mean for business? The straightforward answer is that it’s the same as personal relationships.

“The more a business can relate to an individual on a personal level, the more emotional attachment that person will have to the brand”

When we think about some of the biggest brands in the world, for example, Apple, Coca-Cola, Virgin and the BBC, when the brand name is said aloud it will trigger an emotional feeling – from a brand perspective, hopefully, positive but it can be negative too. The critical aspect is the feeling they create, so we relate our stories associated to the brands not to the commercial elements of the brand.

Case study: Virgin

The Virgin hot air balloon
The Virgin hot air balloon

Virgin and the figurehead of the brand is an example of one who lives and breathes their story and it could be said that everything that Virgin stands for is encapsulated in Richard Branson. His exploits, his public persona, his actions, his words – they are Virgin. The high levels of customer service and care alongside that streak of rebellion is something that the consumer, feeding from the CEO’s persona, buys into and thus develops an affinity and relationship with as a brand. The stories of Richard Branson and his exploits feed into Virgin’s brand and credibility. The critical element for the Virgin brand is their ability to inspire their workforce so each individual person lives and breathes the brand, its story and its values. The more a brand achieves this, the more a consumer feels part of the story, rather than part of the story of one man.

Emotional involvement and connection key to engagement

For any small business, these stories are critical to the success and growth of the brand but, more interestingly, they should be quick wins. Ultimately the story of the entrepreneur, from the germination of an idea to the growth of a business, to their personal development as a leader and the first company hires are all individual stories interwoven with each other. An entrepreneur who can extract the core elements, including the emotional attachment, to deliver a passion-filled speech will experience quick wins in their brand promotion journey.

Millennials and Gen Z consumers are very clear that their relationships with brands are based on emotional attachments with stand-out companies. The stories that are told and the ability to demonstrate these as integral to the brands value will drive these generations (and, less explicitly, other generations) towards loyalty to the brand which will create success and growth.

Word of mouth can spread the word

The joy of telling a story is that it brings to life a product, a company, a service. A great story provides memories that live long after a purchase and are re-told in that most treasured of marketing channels – word of mouth. If the story can, without forcing, demonstrate the company values and ethos then this is the best ambassadorial tool any company can aspire to have.

Nick Gold is the managing director at speaker consultation and booking service Speakers Corner

Watch one of Steve Job’s most inspiring speeches below

Michael Somerville

Michael Somerville

Michael was senior reporter for and from 2018 to 2019.

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