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If you clicked on this article expecting to read about new legislation regarding compulsory trampolines for registered training organisations, I do apologise for misleading you — it was a falsehood. I confirm now for you, dear reader, that I have the best of intentions. This article is about the power of storytelling, so read on if you’re interested to know why you clicked (other than the absurd title).
A story is a sequence of connected factual or fictional events presented verbally or visually. It’s claimed that stories evolved as a method to encourage moral behaviour or adversely allow humans to experience immoral conduct without consequence. Storytelling has the power to transport our minds to another place and is, as far as we know, an entirely human experience.
This transportation is termed theory of mind or mentalising, and it enables us to see the world from somebody else’s perspective—and even predict their behaviour. Humans typically develop this skill at the age of 4, and it's the reason why we find soap operas and dramas so compelling, the exercise of keeping track of which characters know what and about whom.
Stories are how we think; they help us create our identities and provide structure to the chaotic world around us, in a way enabling a safety net for us to experience life securely.
Figuring out the patterns of life is a basic human need. It's both an intellectual activity and an emotional and personal experience which helps us reach and connect emotionally.
A captivating story can encourage innovation, create genuine emotions, elicit behavioural responses, enhance empathy, and release the famed “happy hormone," dopamine, producing a feeling of connectivity. It's this connectivity which creates a compelling story. When a story is relatable and accessible, its message will be remembered.
A well-crafted tale is formed by its proper structure, context, and delivery. However, an integral portion of this craft is held within the detailed imagery of a story.
When we hear a story, our brain attempts to relate it to one of our existing experiences, activating the insula part of our brain. This is caused by a phenomenon called neural coupling. This is why stories triumph over standalone data—the easier it is to make this brain connection and make a meaningful impression, the less risk there is of information loss.
Organisations which develop a core story provide something for people to connect with, participate in, and believe in. It’s challenging to get people to pay attention to something they don’t care about. The trick lies in authentically conveying your organisation's values, personality, and story in a manner that maintains your target's attention.
Apple addicts are hooked on the company's products, enthusiastically waiting for the next big release. But why?
The process is similar to a plot line in a drama:
1. Create excitement with pre-launch whispers.
2. Heighten anticipation by introducing scarcity of product, driving pre-order sales.
3. Evoke a feeling of euphoria when the product is finally in the consumer's hands.
Sound familiar? Maybe you've experienced a similar rollercoaster of emotions when watching your favourite TV show.
The intense emotions that Apple addicts feel may seem like a challenging benchmark to reach, but with the right innovation, your RTO could achieve the same heights of student mania. Experiment by keeping them guessing about what new courses will be introduced, create holistic new learner portals, and introduce onsite learning experiences in industry-relevant fields.
Personality: be the protagonist of the RTO world
It’s no surprise that people relate to other people, but can people relate to organisations?
Yes, they can. According to Jennifer Aaker’s brand personality framework, there are five main types of brand personality: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. Personality traits are conveyed in the way a brand looks, speaks, and behaves, creating an emotional link with the consumer and shaping how they feel about your brand.
When a student chooses an organisation, they may consider where it’s located, what courses they provide, and its reputation for providing quality education. Brand personality in many cases can be the trigger that pulls the student across the line and ensures your RTO stands out from competitors. When choosing your core personality type, it's important to pick a trait that resonates with your key consumer.
Storytelling encompasses many facets of what we do, think, and feel as humans. When harnessed well, we can improve leadership skills, inspire employees, create new networks, communicate ideas successfully, and feel connected to a larger purpose. Ultimately, sharing stories brings people together. Pick something you have in common with your intended audience (whether they're clients, students, colleagues, or management) and connect it to your key insight, and tell your narrative.
Dimensions of brand personality. Jennifer L Aaker. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research; Aug 1997; 34, 3; ABI/INFORM Global. pg. 347
How to Be Human. The Ultimate Guide to Your Amazing Existence. Published by Hodder & Stoughton General Division. 2017. New Scientist.