Narrative: Stories

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Hello. I’m going to tell you a rubbish story.

It’s about a creative agency that was doing well but wanted to freshen things up a bit. It was good at what it did, and it had some fantastic clients, but the agency wanted to do more. More good work to reach more people. So it refreshed its brand, website and social channels. The end.

I told you it was rubbish.

There are lots of reasons why. It’s bland and vague. The protagonist (‘the creative agency’) is generic and impersonal. The narrative arc is weak – there’s no jeopardy, and the ending is disappointing. On top of all that, the subject matter is pretty uninspiring. Because, let’s be honest, not many people relish curling up with a story about a creative agency.

Not the best start to a blogpost about our creative agency’s brand refresh you might be thinking. But bear with me. I promise it gets better.

Because the stories we tell aren’t bland, vague and disappointing; they’re vital, heartfelt and moving. They draw you in with fascinating characters, and their endings inspire you into action.

Like the story of Samantha, who battled loneliness and depression to raise awareness of Childline during the first lockdown. Or Biswajit, the Bangladeshi health worker, who lost his wife to coronavirus yet continued to support his colleagues on the eye care frontline.

We’re proud of the stories we tell because they’re about real-life incredible people and organisations that change the world.

The power of storytelling

Here at Narrative, we’ve always told stories for charity and cause-driven brands – whether we’ve used images, words, ideas, or all three. It’s because stories make us human. They make us feel, think and act. They provide us with our morals, our beliefs, our personal histories and social relationships. They’re what lay behind our motivations and actions. As Will Storr, journalist and author of The Science of Storytelling says,

“Stories fill our newspapers, our law courts, our sporting arenas, our government debating chambers, our school playgrounds, our computer games, the lyrics to our songs, our private thoughts and public conversations and our waking and sleeping dreams. Stories are everywhere. Stories are us.”

Most importantly for our clients, stories are what engage audiences and deliver results. And our clients’ stories deserve nothing less. Our brand refresh is about taking the storytelling approach we’ve always had and putting it centre-stage. It’s about getting the stories we tell to a wider audience and helping us tell more.

Whatever the story we tell – and however we tell it – they all have three things in common.

They’re authentic, honest and faithful – never misleading or diversionary.

They’re emotional because we make people angry, frustrated, joyful, sad, surprised and inspired. We make people feel.

And they’re relatable because your audience won’t listen to stories they don’t identify and engage with.

We don’t tell tall tales

As with all good brand positionings, it’s important to define ourselves by what we’re not. We all love a good work of fiction, but that’s not our business. We’re not concerned with literary forms, unreliable narrators or complex plots. We don’t devise imaginary relationships, fantastical themes or elaborate social commentaries. That’s not the storytelling we do.  

The stories we tell are true, audience-led, and crafted for seamless integrations of ideas, words and design. Our stories are designed to compel you into action. And our design ideas show how visual thinking and storytelling go hand-in-hand.

Yes, we’ll use useful concepts from fictional storytelling, like mood and tone, but only to ensure our story resonates with its audience (so we like to get to know our audiences well). Like fictional storytellers, we believe passionately in the power of characters – but our characters are real. The stories we tell are biographical, not invented. When we create brands, they’re rooted in truths.

Storytelling designed to make a difference

Above all, the stories we tell matter. We don’t like stories aimed at diverting people’s attention from a business’s desire for profit. And we’re not into producing endless streams of ‘content’ that distracts people from more useful and healthy ways to spend their time.

Because storytelling is so effective, it’s been co-opted by cynical marketers as much as those with better intentions. So we’re always happy to see examples of great storytelling in our sector. Like this. And these. Certainly, every story we tell is designed to have a positive impact on the world.

Over the next few weeks and months, we’ll be sharing more of our ideas about storytelling in writing, design and strategy – from creative insights, to how to deliver value-for-money, fundraising top tips, storytelling in photography and more. If you’d like to sign-up for our newsletter, please do. Or you can follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

As we grow our agency, we’re incredibly excited about crafting more stories designed to make a difference. If you’d like us to tell yours, please drop us a line and we can arrange a chat.

We’d love to hear from you.

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