A story, at its most basic level, is a narrative that involves characters, a plot, a setting and a moral to the story or a solution to the problem. Statistics deals with masses of numerical data.
Marketing and sales pitches often use statistics, facts and numbers to support their point of view and make a logical argument for their case. But stories have more power to influence and persuade. Communication that uses stories emotionally connects better with the audience and makes them feel things that statistics rarely achieve. The greatest leaders incorporate storytelling into every single communication opportunity, be it political campaigns, conference keynotes, internal addresses, or financial communications.
Why Storytelling is Better Than Statistics
1. Stories are more memorable.
Stories have a greater recall or memory value and lead to better retention of messages. In his book “Actual Minds, Possible Worlds”, psychologist Jerome Bruner estimates that facts are approximately 22 times more likely to be remembered if they are part of a story format. Brand campaigns that feature stories use emotion to create long-term memories and associations. The narrative arc, the emotional moments, the suspense and the climax all contribute to making the story and its message memorable.
2. Stories engage our emotions.
Audiences are more likely to engage with and adopt messages that make them feel personally involved by triggering an emotional response. Storytelling, with all its excitement, suspense, sensory and emotionally oriented language is a great way to keep the audience invested in the message. Stories harness the power of emotion in crafting memorable and persuasive messages. A good story that shares personal and true experiences helps the listener to connect and relate. This establishes common ground, likes and similarities. Perceiving someone or something favorably can lead to better negotiations. Finding a human connection can turn your prospects into collaborators, co-creators and participants.
3. Stories show empathy with the audience.By virtue of being inherently personal and more relatable, a story better helps to empathize with the audience. For example in marketing, the story narrative connects with the customer’s fears, needs and ambitions and helps to humanize the product/service being offered as a solution or opportunity.
4. Stories provide context to the content.
A statistic without a context is just a number. The story around numbers is what makes the data relevant, meaningful and powerful. This means that context conquers content if you wish to influence, persuade and lead others. Numbers matter, but not as much as the storytelling that surrounds them. Stories give a much-needed boost to the content.
5. Stories aid better understanding of content.
Stories use sensory language, interaction and theatrics which help to illustrate points, visualize the content and hence the audience understands it better. The narrative appears to be the most efficient vehicle for getting people to understand, remember, or accept new information. A storytelling format helps the audience to watch the content as it plays out in their mind. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that even fictional television characters and narratives are effective in conveying public health information. This is because along with informing and educating, stories entertain the reader and therefore there is better attention and receptivity.