Why storytelling matters

Kids raise their hands in excitement during a storytelling session at a libraryAs a librarian, I understand the importance and value of storytelling and, as a marketer, I know how convincing narrative can be – but it’s as a human, that I really get the power of a good story and its ability to inspire, educate and connect.

Despite the modern world growing increasingly frenetic, a well-told story is still the most engaging way to explore different perspectives and learn new things – particularly when there’s some emotional resonance. At libraries all over the world, kids sit on the floor in a circle for story time, listening earnestly to fairy tales, while learning how language works and developing an interest in the broader world. As adults we replicate that sense of shared entertainment and satisfy our need to be part of something bigger through books, sports, movies, TV – and particularly social media.

From Facebook to Instagram and beyond, there is an onslaught of communication tools (check out Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic for 5000+ of them!), but all that technology is useless without the stories that connect us. We crave to understand other people and to feel like we’re not alone in the world. In everything from reality TV to advertisements that tug on our heartstrings, storytelling touches the core of human experience.

We may no longer sit on a library floor for amusement and perhaps it’s been decades since we told ghost stories around a campfire, but storytelling is not dead. If anything, the strength of a good story is more important than ever. A side effect of having information constantly at our fingertips, is that we expect everything to have a backstory. Consumers are looking for reasons to pick one brand over another and credibility combined with emotional connection is strong motivation.

How does ‘Once upon a time…’ connect you, your business, your brand? What stories do you tell to tap into the age-old desire to be part of something bigger?

Storytelling is powerful. Don’t let the profound humanness of narrative pass you by.


This post was originally published on Integrated B2B.

A very personal library

Escalators in Copenhagen's central libraryWhen I first moved from Canada to Europe in 2013, one of the hardest tasks was to dramatically reduce my personal library. Over the course of many years and two university degrees, I had collected over 400 books and I knew it was unreasonable to move or store them all. Print books take up a lot space and are a pain to ship!

I gifted many titles to friends, donated the rest and said farewell to all but a handful of print books. My collection shifted to digital format (thank goodness for iBooks!) and I resolved to stay out of bookstores in case the temptation to rebuild my collection was too strong.

Despite having millions of books available electronically, there’s something special about turning physical pages and getting a library card was at the top of my to-do list after moving to Copenhagen in September 2016. Before I had even received my yellow health card (a must for anyone settling in Denmark!), I was at the main library on Krystalgade bumbling through the process of setting up a library account.

Library card in hand, I wandered the many floors at the main library enjoying the range of materials, marvelling at the intermixed languages in the non-fiction section (Danish, Swedish, German, English, French – all side by side!) and trying to determine how the subjects were organised. As a life-long lover of libraries, I often visit public libraries when travelling and I’m fascinated by the differing classification systems – I still don’t understand the Danish scheme!

I’ve since become familiar with Østerbro’s two local libraries, attended author talks at the Black Diamond and discovered that my yellow health card is also my library card – no need for one more thing in my wallet! I’m impressed by how much Danes care about the written word, as demonstrated by the striking architecture of the Black Diamond, the wealth of the library’s collections and the ability for users to access local libraries after-hours.

I am also delighted by the ‘Hygge only’ zone at the main library: a sign directs visitors to use the space for reading or chatting – no phones or computers. ‘Hygge’ is one aspect where I notice that Denmark has a surprisingly different culture from Canada or Germany (where I lived in 2013-14). I’ve jumped into Danish culture by studying Danish, watching Olympic curling on DR, experiencing May Day at Fælledparken, making pilgrimages to H.C. Anderson’s hometown and the Dybbøl windmill, overindulging at Julefrokost celebrations and cycling just about everywhere and I’m still uncovering all that Denmark has to offer.

In spite of warnings about the Danes’ frosty nature towards strangers, I’ve been welcomed warmly by people at the two yoga studios where I teach. I have Danish and expat friends, can order pastries and engage in small talk in Danish, but it’s really the library system that makes me feel like I belong. Spotting titles I used to own on the shelves of my local library in Østerbro cements the feeling that Copenhagen is home and satisfies my desire to read ‘real’ books – without the need to build a personal library again!