Okay, so the first question we should probably answer is: what is strategic storytelling.
Strategic storytelling actually has a different definition depending on what context you’re asking for; in business development, strategic storytelling is how you tell the story of data and insights to stakeholders in a way that is engaging and inspires action. As another example, strategic storytelling for marketing is how to use those insights to tell the story of the brand and its services/products in order to create a connection with consumers.
Strategic storytelling is used to engage the audience, create a connection, and create a solid rationale that the audience can follow, before then going on to act on their newfound knowledge and desire.
But across all of these different contexts, we can see that there are commonalities, namely the art of finding the most relevant narrative and telling that story to connect to your audience and engage them deeply, emotionally and empathetically. Strategic storytelling is a technique that can be applied, not just to marketing and business development, but to all communications you could possibly think of including journalism and conference presentations.
“People Don’t Buy What You Do…
… they buy why you do it.”
Simon Sinek is a leadership expert who produced one of the most-watched TED Talks ever, How great leaders inspire action, where he talked about how those who lead got ahead. While he didn’t mention it by name, strategic storytelling is how they got ahead.
All of the great and inspiring leaders of the world all think, act, and communicate the exact same way, and Sinek codified this idea as the Golden Circle:
The typical order for us to follow, logically, is outside-in: what → how → why; it’s easier and the most logical, as it’s connected to how we think and as such is usually a standard order of communication in B2C communications such as adverts. However, the innovative leaders Sinek talks about actually invert this order and communicate from the inside-out: why → how → what. This technique is rooted in strategic storytelling, starting off with the all-important, all-encompassing ‘why’. ‘Why’ is the story that needs to be told in order to engage the audience, and creates a connection, creates a solid rationale that the audience can follow before you go onto ‘how’ and then ‘what’.
This technique might have been put into words in 2009, but there are still only a few companies today who are actually leading the way by cracking this technique.
Huggies’ No Baby Unhugged Campaign
Huggies are another example of a brand who used strategic storytelling to bring insights to life, with their No Baby Unhugged campaign in 2017. Huggies are a Canadian diaper brand who, at the time, was competing with Pampers, who held 100% of Canadian hospital contracts. Typically, the brand of diaper that a parent uses isn’t high on the list of priorities and it usually comes down to price, so Huggies were challenged to change a mother’s behaviour (while she was in her third trimester) when it comes to choosing a diaper brand, so the decision was more considered. But they knew that they would need to reach parents emotionally, and so they decided to pursue an initiative that was close to their core brand values.
Huggies ran over 600 research studies to determine whether time spent hugging children was directly connected to the progress of their overall development, their vital signs, brain development, immune systems, etc. and the results were actually resoundingly positive. So, they created the No Baby Unhugged initiative to communicate these results, to tell the story of their insights and educate parents and health professionals on the power of skin-to-skin hugs. Through video adverts, minimalistic, but powerful adverts, social media campaigns, and a dedicated website this campaign is still very much ongoing; even now 2 years later it has additional educational resources for expectant mothers and volunteer system that enables struggling hospitals to provide the contact that new-born babies need.
The results of this are brilliant, not only for the development of the business but also for the care of newborns internationally. There are currently 4 No Baby Unhugged hospitals in Canada, and 16 other countries, including the USA, are adopting the campaign. Business-wise, in 2016, sales of Huggies Newborn Diapers increased by almost 30%, and their online adverts reached a click-through rate that was 12 times higher than the industry benchmarks at the time.
Google’s Hopeful Year in Search Video
After the relative horror show that was 2016, all we will remember is the mass flurry of celebrity deaths, Brexit, the series of ISIS terrorist attacks on numerous countries, and President Trump’s first election into the White House. This will be the start of a truly divisive set of years where political affiliations, labels, and the morals that we hold dear will truly set us apart from each other. But Google took a look at what we had been searching all year in 2016 and set about to tell a different story in a two-minute video.
Starting with the horrors that were both witnessed and experienced by many people around the globe, Google doesn’t want us to forget about what happened, because forgetting will lead to a repetition of the events that would be severely damaging to the world. However, in all of the darkness, we must also remember the light that brings us all together and keeps innovation possible through hope and opportunity.
Creativity is the core of strategic storytelling, and so creativity must be applied to the chosen insight delivery method to ensure that it’s as impactful as it can possibly be, to bring those insights to life.
This story is composed of a multitude of video clips relating to the top 5 most searched terms, events, news, people, entertainment, and deaths, each representing the actions taken in every second throughout the year. These insights are gathered as a part of tradition that started with the year 2001 called “Year in Search”, where they would compose a trend report of the five most popular searches globally of that year in different categories, including consumer brands, movies, sports, etc. with each year containing different popular categories. The videos only started in 2010, with the most poignant being the video of 2016, which ends with only six gentle little words: “Love is out there. Search On.”
The MRX Applications of Strategic Storytelling
Huggies and Google are only two examples of brands using strategic storytelling to communicate insights and engage their audience. Insight professionals would do well to take note of this technique and apply it where they can to their reporting techniques in order to increase stakeholder engagement and insights activation.
While these two contained short video-based results and those results were great, video isn’t the only way these insights could have been communicated. Creativity is the core of strategic storytelling, and so creativity must be applied to the chosen insight delivery method to ensure that it’s as impactful as it can possibly be, to bring those insights to life.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.