'A Crash Course in Storytelling with Nick Warren'
In our latest blog on accelerating the UK’s recovery, we’re featuring Nick Warren, Strategic Copywriter at Stories Mean Business, a consultancy helping organisations unlock their storytelling potential.
In 2016, Nick Warren was enjoying a successful career as MD for Semantic Ltd. But as he lay awake in the early hours, he had to ask himself a tough question: did he really want to keep doing this for another twenty years?
xRealising he wanted a new challenge, he launched Stories Mean Business. In the past few years, he’s helped a wide range of people to articulate themselves with great success, and now he’s sharing his rhetorical wisdom with a wider audience.
The most successful companies are the ones that tell the most compelling stories, so read on to discover the ways to tell a tale that really engages your audience!
First, we need to appreciate the evolutionary importance of storytelling. You might think that’s ancient history, but biologically speaking, we’re wired the same way as our ancestors who gathered round the fire to share tales of the hunt – and the ability to exchange those stories gave us a clear survival benefit.
“In a story,” Nick explains, “you can learn about the world the world and experience danger without risk. There’s a huge evolutionary advantage to that.”
Though our societies have changed, our innate desire to learn from the experiences of others has not. We’re still primed to exchange stories, and it all comes down to brain chemistry: “If you tell a story, you’re going to trigger chemical changes in the brain of the person you tell it to. You’re going to trigger dopamine, cortisol, these things that create emotions. In short, storytelling is telepathy.”
So how on earth can a storyteller realise this huge potential and create meaningful impressions in the minds of others?
“The core things are character, conflict and consequence,” says Nick, drawing from Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology. “A character has a problem - something throws their world out of balance. The character chooses to, or is forced to, leave their normal world and travel into the ‘magical world’. They’ll have various challenges to face, have to overcome them, and then bring back their ‘treasure’. In a business context, we need to be characters who are honest about our conflicts and show how we resolve them.”
The problem with business storytelling, as Nick sees it, is that there’s a tendency to gloss over the “struggle” part of the story. The result is that you get a “happy-clappy” story of continuous improvement – but without tension, there can be no drama: “if your story has no conflict in it, it has no value to the survival of someone else.”
But if it’s done well, with the right amount of drama, storytelling is integral to business success. It needs to ring clearly in every part of your organisation, far beyond a couple of paragraphs on your About page. “The best description of a brand I’ve ever heard,” says Nick, “is that it’s like a bell. You can hit a bell in lots of different places but it always rings the same.”
This is the next step in the whole process: integrating your story into your whole business and living it every day. Organisations that can do this are the ones that will thrive. Ultimately, you need to connect your experience with the problems that others face and show how you overcame the odds. If you can do that, you’ll profoundly touch another person and truly inspire them.
As someone who’s faced his fair share of challenges, Luke Murfitt summed up the whole discussion extremely well: “You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”
So ask yourself: what is my mountain? And how did I move it?
Nick Warren, Strategic Copywriter at Stories Mean Business
and expert on the power of storytelling!