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Mastering the art of true storytelling

What’s the vital ingredient in making a great story?

Lately we’ve been helping our clients tell stories about scientists saving threatened native animals, schools using new techniques to teach maths and businesses wanting better mobile connectivity for farmers.

According to the auditory-oriented Italian journalist and novelist Italo Calvino, a great story hangs on the way you tell it.

“It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear,” he says.

Masterful storytellers sense what their audience is ‘hearing’.

Using pictures, video to tell stories

For tens of thousands of years, long before our ancestors invented writing, they told stories using images. They drew stories on cave walls, under cliff faces and on rocks. We still draw pictures to tell stories.

Dr Sue Pillans aka Dr Suzie Starfish

Graphic recorder Sue Pillans helps Currie tell stories by visualising them using whiteboards, posters, visual meeting minutes, infographics and animation. “The best visual stories include positive and hopeful messaging, using appropriate icons, pictures and words,” she says.

Another form of visual storytelling, video, is proclaimed as the future of storytelling.

According to Cisco, as reported in The Guardian, by 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic. Video-on-demand traffic will have almost trebled by the end of next year.

The use of 360-degree video technology has given rise to immersive storytelling, such as this example which places the audience in the middle of a story about the lives of three refugee children.

How people share stories is changing

JulyNewsletterbodyOur PRGN pal in San Francisco, David Landis, Landis Communications, predicts livestreaming video mobile app Periscope will be a game-changer in the way we tell – and share – stories. Periscope enables you to “go live” via your mobile device anytime and anywhere.

The app enables you to become your own “on the go” broadcasting station, streaming video and audio to any viewers who join your broadcast. Brands can use this, especially in leveraging news as it unfolds in real time.

In addition to Periscope, numerous video-based mobile ‘live storytelling’ platforms, including SnapChat, Airtime, A New Morning, and more recently Facebook Live have evolved.

How people share stories is changing. Yet are they telling or showing stories?

Once upon a time stories had a beginning, middle and an end. They were about a contest between good and evil, a choice between right and wrong and a triumph over adversity.

Is this true in the digital age?

What we know about storytelling

Stories will always be important. Here are three things we know about telling stories.

  1. Stories are part of what makes us human

In his book, The Storytelling Animal, author Jonathan Gottschall describes humans as the great ape with the storytelling mind. The Homo sapien brain processes stories like no other primate. “As a species we’re addicted to story. Even when we’re sleeping the mind stays up all night telling itself stories.”

  1. Stories start conversations about change

Says Dr Catherine Keenan, co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, and Australia’s Local Hero 2016: “Telling stories is how we understand the world around us and how we convince others to work with us to change it.” At Currie we’ve been telling stories about change for more than 25 years.

  1. Inspiring leaders tell values-based stories

As we told the B Corp Leadership Development day #BLDOZ last week, “Great business stories tap into the personal values of an audience. People are motivated when they hear business leaders talk about why they do what they do and what they believe.” We call this values-based storytelling.

If it’s true that the ear commands a story, the language used is vital. Nelson Mandela said: “Talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. Talk to him in his language, it goes to his heart.”

Good luck with your next story.

Best wishes

Mark Paterson


* Currie Communications is a proudly-certified B Corporation – a company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems – and an associate member for the Public Relations Global Network.


About Mark Paterson

Mark’s first job was milking cows. An award-winning career in journalism followed. These days when he's not trying to save coral reefs in Indonesia, dreaming about playing tennis on the Masters circuit or raising three kids in a blended family he thrives on consulting work that connects profit with people and planet. The son of corgi breeders, Mark would like to change the world for the better. Read more posts by Mark.

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