We should be storygivers, not storytellers




Lawrence Collis

The Art of Storytelling is down to giving, not telling.

Or so said storytelling experts, Good Relations’s Mat O’Brien, VICE Media’s Tim Burnett & The Guardian’s Joel Midgley at last week’s Good Relations’ ‘Contagious Culture’ seminar, where we examined the art of modern storytelling for brands and how to populate culture on a contagious level.

Stories are a foundation of every culture and society. Stories bind us together and rip us apart. They’re vehicles for humanity to relate, commiserate, entertain, laugh, cry, form relationships, build trust, emote, have a history… and brands that are great storygivers have an unfair competitive advantage on those that aren’t.


The plot twist has been the impact of technology on traditional storytelling tenets. Mass digitisation has fundamentally changed the way brands interact with consumers, and we need to adapt our storytelling for the technological age at a faster rate than ever before.

So what’s the distinction between storygiving and storytelling? Storytellers are narrators in a vacuum, (think a didactic, textbook-esque narrative), whereas storygivers are flexible narrators – creating stories with the audience at the centre of the narrative. Storygivers give audiences the tools to create their own stories, and have a much higher probability of becoming contagious, such as Secret Cinema. The greatest storygivers know how to intersect brand and culture and make audiences an integral, leading part of the story – think ‘Share a Coke’.

Here’s seven storygiving superpowers from the event that will help you think and act more like a storygiver:

  1. Tell stories that add value – Check out the literary and anthropological experiment – ‘Significant Objects’. A creative writer put a story behind each product, adding 2706% value to the product’s worth. The better storyteller the brand, the more product they sell.
    2. Fulfill the three Cs – VICE advised that the key to successful brand storytelling is to abide by the three C’s: community, concerns, communicate. Find a community, fulfill their concerns, and communicate with tact and understanding.
    3. Good stories are not advice – That’s because advice doesn’t tend to stick. Storygivers show, not tell, and find a way to unite those universally known truths in a single threaded perspective that can draw millions of people in, no matter their background, experiences, and outlook. Practice, not preach!
    4. Storygivers share stories as a co-creation tool. The best storytelling brands set the scene for someone to be a part of the story. Take Cadbury’s annual Creme Egg ‘Hunting Season’ – who doesn’t want to get involved with hunting down those prized white creme eggs?

5. Approach marketing & storytelling like a drunk person at 2am – Stories that create change and stick in your mind are the stories we remember. What stories do we remember that make a difference, and why? It’s often the ones that feel like anecdotes – personal, detailed, and highly shareable.

6.Sharing is caring – If you see someone else already telling the story you want, share it. Glossier do a weekly Sunday feature of the five favourite things they’ve seen on the internet that week – and it’s often consumers getting creative with their products and creating new, shareable stories for the Glossier brand to celebrate.

7. Act like a publisher – To be a successful storygiver, The Guardian advised us “to give above storytelling”. Every media outlet is covering the same stories, and when you’re talking to communities, you have to add value and get all the details right. So brands must focus on a particular editorial aspect or approach, differentiate their story by working with niche people, and share new ideas that haven’t been exposed before.

This new age of technological storytelling demands brands to take a different approach to communications; campaigning to get their message across. The best stories will be based on truths – contagious truths – that are put into the hands of the right people at the right time to spread it contagiously.

To register for future events at Good Relations check out our events page

This was published by…

Lawrence Collis

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