The evolution of storytelling

I recently attended Digital Edge Live 2015 held in Sandton. The conference examines trends in the digital space and how they affect the communications industry. The theme was “Making Stories” and explored the demands being placed on storytelling today.

The stage was shared by more than twenty impressive speakers including the keynote speaker; award-winning writer, director, actor, producer and author Spike Lee.

While most people at the event were there to hear Lee speak, I was more intrigued by the gentleman who kicked off the session Thulani Sibeko, Managing Executive Nedbank Group Marketing, Communications and Corporate Affairs.

Sibeko spoke about the evolution of storytelling from how grandparents would tell stories to their grandchildren around the fire and how this tradition was passed down from generation to generation. He highlighted how the arrival of hieroglyphics in Egypt saw a shift in storytelling from oral to written and how television signaled the start of visual storytelling.

As communication consultants and custodians of storytelling we are constantly looking for stories and for better ways to tell them on behalf of our clients. We pitch stories to journalists. We track stories in the news, in print publications, across broadcast platforms and online and we work with media practitioners to develop stories.

Over the years we have even seen businesses develop an understanding of the value of employing the services of professionals who can assist them in telling their stories and, as a result, connect with audiences (customers and clients) at a much more personal level.

But how often have we sat and asked ourselves what makes an effective story?

Creating an effective story means finding important or interesting information and then presenting it in such a way that engages the audience.

Essentially what that means is that our stories need to be relatable to the audience it is intended for but should also challenge or ignite their view on a matter.

English novelist and author Graham Green once said: “A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”

Storytelling allows us to connect with our audiences and take them on a journey — a journey that inspires feelings, ideas, and attitudes consistent with our communication goals.

Human beings are self-serving individuals, everything we do has to somehow benefit us in the end. Likewise, when engaging with a story, the moment the story no longer interest or serves us we become disengaged.

Also, a very common yet critical aspect that we as communicators often overlook is the medium in which we speak to our audience.

Storytelling has evolved, as Sibeko highlighted, and today because of the many platforms which exist choosing the correct one is an integral part of storytelling. Great content can be lost because of poor packaging.

History has proven there will always be a need for stories to be told and heard.

As communications consultants is has become increasingly important that we are aware of how to tell effective stories, using effective mediums in order to meet our clients’ needs.

Written By Arnold Tshimanga