Storytelling for Business Impact

Brianna Sylver, President of Sylver Consulting, was generous with her time and advice on better storytelling techniques for business impact. I met her at the NEXT Conference in Chicago, where she was most excited to reconnect with colleagues. Coming from the world of design research, she pointed to Designalytics as a powerful tool with objective enough brand evaluation metrics to one day break the monopoly on concept-testing benchmarking in CPG brands currently held by Nielsen’s BASES. 

Storytelling, although an ancient art form, assumes a different archetype when applied to business problems today. In traditional storytelling, whether long form journalism or other narrative storytelling, the story mattered before the “content/data”. For insights professionals however, the data comes first. Data defines the story and what it means for distinct stakeholders and audiences. The point of storytelling for insights professionals or brand marketers centres on their call to action targeting who needs to hear the outcomes of their research and what they need to do about it (actionable next steps). This post below by Sylver explains what she calls actionable impact. She does this by emphasizing the importance of the “learning journey” she urges you to enjoy and take your stakeholders through. The deliverable assets (whether it is a PowerPoint deck or a series of videos) are defined by this learning journey.

The most disruptive thing in storytelling today is not so much the changing consumer or new technologies as it is the changing landscape, which is the sum of all these moving parts, according to Sylver. Prototype modeling can be a disruptive tool in storytelling, especially in determining where you are telling the story. Automation and AI are still in their early stages and Sylver is yet to come across a tool or AI program that can effectively storytell or replace the human talent for it.   

Brands with impact, purpose and knowledge of their sense of being and reason for existence succeed the most today. Those focussed on sustainability and innovation are winning. Sylver cites the examples of Nike (with a very literal call to action, clear mission yet different ways to communicate their identity and purpose creatively and effectively), Coke (with its personalized and change-centric campaigns) and especially Tom’s Shoes that is conscientious about its quality of engagement and consistency, as brands to model your stories after. You can access her conference presentation and guidebook for better business storytelling here along with a practical workbook to help you plot your next pitch. 

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