This article appeared in German in the 18th edition of The Reporting Times (PDF) in May 2021
Who doesn’t get caught up in the adventures of the overcautious Marlin and the forgetful Dory as they travel the ocean in search of Nemo, only to be reunited with the little clownfish in the final act? The stirring Pixar film deals in a classic hero’s journey, combining an exciting plot with a strong moral and resonating with old and young alike.
Stories linger in the memory: the human brain is up to 22 times better at recalling them than plain facts. Storytelling triggers the episodic part of our memory – the same part used to store the events we actually experience. In other words, it’s not just about what the information is; it’s about how you present it. And corporate reporting is no exception.
“It’s the architecture that turns a good story into a great one. No matter what context it’s being used in.”
You know your brand story like the back of your hand. With the right structure and a sprinkling of storytelling, you can turn this year’s annual report into a showstopper. Follow the six storytelling rules below to keep your stakeholders and shareholders captivated:
1. Give the reader strong protagonists to root for.
Present characters that the reader can identify with. Heroes and villains are at the heart of an interesting story. It’s great if you’re the hero; it’s even better when your customers take on that mantle.
2. Introduce contrasts and struggles to create tension and excitement.
This has been tried and tested since Biblical times: good against evil, poor against rich, David against Goliath, you against a hostile market.
3. Create a sense of journey.
Build a personal connection with the reader and take them on a journey from beginning to end. Show them your vision, values and experiences. Entice them to follow you by leaning on the traditional dramatic structure: exposition – rising action – climax – falling action – resolution.
4. Focus on what you attempted, not what you succeeded at.
You won’t hold anyone’s attention if you simply gush about everything you achieved this year. Readers want to know about what didn’t pan out and where you had to adapt. Admitting to these things also makes you sound more authentic.
5. Keep your language simple to appeal to all readers.
It doesn’t matter how eloquent you are – a brand story is about keeping things simple. Think of your readers as the kind of people who watch Finding Nemo, not as shareholders.
6. Highlight the moral of the story.
Your conclusion – which is usually the final page of your report – should offer some kind of profound insight. That’s what cements your report and its significance in the reader’s mind. In Finding Nemo, Marlin learns to trust others again. What did you learn?
Cover image via Twenty20
Tell your brand story in a way that keeps your readers interested. We can help.