The Moral of the Story

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t have missed the fact that storytelling is making headlines:


Harness the power of storytelling!

How to use story to improve customer buy-in!

Top storytelling techniques to build your business!


If you’re like me, you’ve wondered: why is it suddenly okay to tell stories?

As a child, storytelling was frowned upon – unless it happened in the library, where you sat in strict silence, listening to an adult read a book. Or when you wrote a story as an assignment for English class. Telling stories was quite another matter.

“Somebody’s been telling tales out of school!” I remember being told when I ratted out one of my siblings. Being a tell-tale was not cool. Also heard: “That’s a tall tale if I ever heard one.” “Somebody has an active imagination!” (Not necessarily a good thing, judging by the looks exchanged between adults). The message? It was a short step from telling stories to perjury, prison and life as a hardened criminal.

So when did storytelling become acceptable? As an advertising copywriter back in the 1980s, any attempt to bring story to copy was tough. Long copy had gone out with David Ogilvy. Splashy art direction with short headlines ruled the day. As far as the marketers were concerned, the product was the hero of any ad; in retail it was often the price point itself. The consumer was the target market, the audience, and if he got involved at all he was often portrayed as the chump.

Then, the internet happened. And in the digital world, just as highly evolved strains of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, so consumers have developed resistance to anything so direct as advertising. The secret is out: there’s nothing like a story to get the message across.

Storytelling, or the use of narrative to convey a particular message, is an age-old tradition handed down since the dawn of time. From cave drawings to fairy tales, parables to folk songs, stories are a way of communicating that is both memorable and painless, and where the moral of the story – popularly known as the message – hits home. Now, with the advent of content marketing, everybody and his uncle wants in on the act.

At its best, a story draws you in with a wonderful hook, takes you for a ride that you don’t want to stop, then hits you with an emotional pay-off. Heartstrings or joy. It doesn’t matter, as long as it delivers.

And the moral of the story?

Stories are all around us, in life and in business. Wherever there are people, there are stories waiting to be told. Whether your story is about you, your team or your customers, there’s only one rule to using story in your communications: keep it real. It also helps to make it relevant for your audience and in line with your brand messages. Beyond that, anything goes.

Here are some fine examples of storytelling in action:

Do you have a story that needs to be told?
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