Why is Storytelling so Powerful?
Before humans developed the written word, the only way to communicate and pass on information was through storytelling. While we might imagine our ancestors grunting and groaning as a means of communication, some researchers place humans as having a spoken language at least 60,000 years ago, or approximately 2,143 generations ago. Some estimates place it within a range of 350,000 and 1.8 million years ago; however, without concrete evidence or a time machine, these estimates may be quite erroneous.
It would be no surprise, then, that storytelling is a massive part of who and what we are as a species. What’s interesting is that it’s so engrained into our biology that a story with various elements can elicit a wide array of neurochemicals with varying effects. Oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, cortisol, and many others can be released simply by listening to a story.
Storytelling is encouraged in presentations, and if you’ve ever watched a Ted Talk, you’ll notice they share some very common features (here’s a fun self-parody of a Ted Talk about nothing). For example, the speaker may cause the release of oxytocin in the audience, which builds closeness and trust, by sharing an embarrassing or endearing story about themselves. Or by telling an exciting tale that elicits the reward chemical dopamine. Alternatively, a jump scare causes the release of cortisol, a stress hormone.
An understanding of the elements of storytelling, their effects, and your desired results can leave a lasting impact on anyone willing to read it and switch from a cold contact to a warm one. Now, let’s talk about how to add them to our email campaigns, and their other uses in business.
How Can I Use Stories in Emails?
Emails bridge the gap between long-form content and short advertising. Because there’s enough whitespace to write a narrative, we have the space to explore storytelling in email campaigns.
There are several factors to take into consideration when writing a story for business. For example, it’s common practice to give a brand a specific personality. This personality could be anything from witty to eloquent; we’re sure you’ve seen some tweets from Burger King and Wendy’s showcasing this. With brand characterization, you have a subject to talk about, and this brings us to the first point: make full use of the people in your story.
Every story requires characters at their heart. If the story is about an unmoving rock that doesn’t learn, develop, face hardship, or grow, no one will be captivated or interested enough to finish reading it. Ensuring that the characters have relevant names at the beginning of the story also ensures that the reader will become invested in what happens to that character.
It’s important to remember that a story requires allowing the listener or reader to imagine and visualize everything happening. By breathing life into your characters, you thereby allow your readers to visualize the events of the story. Be sure that your characters face hardships, have shortcomings, and grow in some way.
Everything you mention should be used later in the story; if you introduce a family member with difficulties later without mentioning them prior, it can be a bit jarring to the imagination. Alternatively, if you mention that a character made a certain amount of money in a short amount of time, but don’t describe how you may pique the reader’s curiosity and get them to follow a link, this can also backfire, causing them to determine the email is spam, even when it is not.
Adding crisp details also helps the imagination visualize a story, you can do this with a wide variety of descriptive nouns and adjectives; and for situations, clever adverb usage. It’s an email, so of course, you can’t write a Stephen King novel with ten pages about the girl’s red hair, but you can add just enough detail to allow their minds to fill in the gaps.
It’s important to bear in mind that an email is not a sales pitch, it’s outreach. It’s a method of raising brand awareness to develop a relationship with the recipient. From the moment you open your eyes to the moment you go to sleep, you are bombarded with advertising; the same is true of every person you’re trying to reach out to. You need to captivate their attention, not just sling yet another ad into their inbox.
One great way to tell a story is by sharing the experience of one of your users. By telling their story and attaching visual aids, such as videos or photos, you can help build trust while they read about the user. A personalized story is far more motivating than a call-to-action button and a little text recommending a service.
What Does a Personalized Story Look Like?
A personalized story isn’t that different from the flow of a novel. Your character has a backstory, such as their professional or personal background; they have personality quirks, or something unique about them; they have a challenge or problem that they need to overcome; they’re faced with the conflict to overcome with difficulty; and lastly, the character experiences a resolution with their conflict.
Making sure that the character faces hardships, as well as grows in some way, breathes life into the character, thereby making them endearing to the reader. The bond between the reader and character is important in any form of storytelling; this can easily be discerned when telling a story to a child and how they ask questions about what kind of knight the hero is.
Methods for Writers
One of the most popular methods of story development is known as the “snowflake method”. This method can be used to describe a specific scene or to help with the entire narrative.
For example, a writer wants to give details about a location; by using the snowflake method, the writer can understand and develop every detail about this location, including what kind of floorboards or knick-knacks are present. This method can be used for character development and many other facets of the process. The main idea is to reach finer and finer details to ensure that the item is rich in context.
Flowcharts are incredibly useful in every project. By making a flowchart that shows each of the necessary components of a story, the writers can develop each segment appropriately and in an organized manner.
Lastly, creating a board covered with common cliches, points of view, and topics can help you stay focused on being unique and not buried under the thousands of other emails your recipients are receiving.
There are a million ways to write a fantastic story that captivates your reader’s imagination, not all of them require strong sales language. Every campaign is unique and has a specific goal in mind. It’s up to you to determine what you want your story to achieve and what physiological responses it should elicit in its readers. We encourage you to explore this subject matter further and to use this information both wisely and ethically.