The old adage says “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Not always true, but there are photos that seem to be a story. We look, smile, and wish we knew more about what’s going on. This family at a museum in Toronto, for example. Don’t you almost wish you could overhear what they’re talking about? Aren’t you tempted to make up a story?
Little confession: that’s my son and his daughters. I didn’t take the photo. I wasn’t even there, but I think it’s a charming moment.
This story shall the good man teach his son . . .
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3
William Shakespeare knew that if you want to motivate, you inspire with a story, a new one suggesting the way things will be . . .
King Henry stands before his ragtag army. They are vastly outnumbered. Every man knows and fears that, but they also have long bows. Their bows can give them advantage over the horse mounted French, if they stand. Henry must make them stand and fight. How does he do that? By telling them a new story–the one that will be told of their victory. The story that will be repeated every St. Crispin’s Day from this time forward.
Do stories matter? Ask Shakespeare.
PS: Check comments for video of an even better performance of St. Crispin’s speech!
Every story has a subtext–a story within the story. Sometimes there are several, and often subtext reveals more than the story itself. How do we know? The details give us hints and our imaginations fill in the rest.
Want an example? Follow the link and ask yourself–how the good sisters know what they know about which way a penis should point? What other layers of story are implied by this clever bit of advertising?
OK, this one is so good you have to read the complete post. Every word!
Dr. Kiki Sanford is self-described as PhD scientist (neurophysiology) who escaped the lab to be a science writer. Recently she blogged the fundamentals for good science communication.
In a nutshell: Tell a story.
Word of Warning: I know Dr. Kiki from the Conference on World Affairs as an articulate TKD black belt. Not a person to ignore!
Happy reading: http://www.kirstensanford.com/2009/10/28/communication-basics/
Every four-year-old caught with a stolen chocolate has the right instinct. Go with a whopper.
Given a choice between a contrite confession or a good story, most of us will take the story. Why? Because stories are elastic, creative, and, if inventive enough, we can’t help ourselves. We admire the effort.
The video says it all:
What makes a good slogan, like “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” memorable?
It suggests a story. By the time we’re four, every one of us knows how good things can turn messy. M&Ms promises us chocolate without the anxiety.
Sears launched their Christmas 2008 campaign with “Don’t just give a gift. Grant a wish.” Then they linked that slogan with real stories of Ty Pennington receiving his first toolbox and LL Cool J getting a turntable from his grandfather.
When Best Buy started using “You, happier,” they wanted their customers to see themselves leaving the store satisfied. Like the M&Ms slogan, “You, happier” plays off the idea that in other times and other places we haven’t felt confident about our purchases. Don’t repeat those bad experiences, Best Buy tells us. Shop here. They don’t have to fill in the story. We know.
What stories come to mind with these famous slogans?
“Reach out and touch someone,” AT&T
“He keeps going and going and going . . .” Energizer batteries
“We’re #2. We try harder,” Avis
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” United Negro College Fund
Why pay attention to slogans? Because they’re little stories and stories sell, especially when they’re clever enough to touch on our own experiences.
I live three blocks from Daddy Bruce’s Barbeque, a landmark in Boulder, Colorado, not to mention THE place for ribs. And I think stories are important so I should have been paying attention. It took Yu Miao and Alan O’Hashi to tell me the story that goes with the ribs. Thing is, I knew there were stories on every corner, I just hadn’t paused long enough between bites of barbeque to get this one. Enjoy.
“My Own Corner” produced by Yu Miao; videography by Alan O’Hashi.