That was the message that Justina Chen, an author of books for young adults and formerly executive communications manager at Microsoft, had for an audience of communicators at Ragan’s Role of Communications in Creating Best Places to Work conference at SAS headquarters. Rather than labeling yourselves communicators, she told them, think of yourselves as storytellers.
Why is storytelling so important? Citing research from John Medina’s “Brain Rules,” Chen said stories that evoke strong emotions help people transfer information from short-term memory to long-term memory. People tune out to speeches every eight minutes or so; stories pull them back in.
Chen detailed ways communicators can become better storytellers themselves, and can turn their managers and executives into better storytellers, too. Here are seven of the biggest transformation tips:
1. Build myths.
Myths are the foundation of storytelling, Chen said, and they live on through stories about heroic journeys such as the Harry Potter books or “The Lord of the Rings.” She told the audience to look for heroic journeys in their own companies.