Storytelling Requires Courage, Discipline and Trust

Storytelling is About Making ChoicesStorytelling is about making hard choices, having the conviction to stand by those choices and respecting your audience’s intelligence.

That’s a particularly tall order when you’re telling a story on behalf of a giant organization, where the approval process is fraught with perils, hurdles — and lawyers.

So I was delighted to come across a stellar example of great storytelling from Deloitte, one of the largest auditing and consulting firms in the world.

They hired me to conduct a storytelling workshop for their global communications leaders, and as I hunted around for stories that would be relevant to the group, I discovered this gem right on their own website.

Check it out:

I love this story. It actually gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. It’s compelling and downright cinematic in its look and feel.

Storytelling is About Making Choices (And Sticking to Them)

But the best thing about it? It tells A STORY about a single CHARACTER with a specific CHALLENGE.

It’s a safe bet that someone, somewhere along the approval chain expressed concern that the video was too limiting. By focusing on a single example, it risks implying that financial fraud is the only kind of crisis work Deloitte does.

And in fact most companies would have chosen instead to a do a very different kind of video, one that reads more like a fact sheet than a story:

Our crisis practice operates in 70 countries and 50 different languages, handling the full range of issues from environmental disasters to financial fraud to product recalls. Our proprietary 6-point service approach encompasses …

Blah, blah, blah. That’s just a bunch of words, data and hollow promises. The kind of claims that any firm could make and that does nothing to differentiate it from the rest.

But somebody (bless them) held the line and stood up for storytelling. They trusted that the customer would get it. Even a customer who was in a completely different kind of business with wholly different issues at stake, would understand that Deloitte is the place to go for help in a crisis.

Why This Story Works

Why? Because the story is relatable:

  • We empathize with the main character, since we’ve all faced some sort of crisis in our lives.
  • We see the toll it takes on him and those around him, including his family.
  • We understand that feeling of being under attack and events spinning out of our control.

Emotion Fuels Stories

What’s the common denominator here? Emotion. The best stories evoke an emotional response — one that causes us to act.

So in this case, if you’re a potential Deloitte client you see this story, it grabs your attention and it makes you want to know more. You’re thinking, “These guys understand. They’ve been there and they can help me.”

Then you go to their website and read the facts and data about services offered and methodology used and the rest. And that provides the rational justification for the emotion-based decision you’ve probably already made.

And that is the magic of story.