The Native Americans were right: “Those who tell the stories rule the world“. A maxim that remains valid, even today, where everything is a narrative. From business to science, storytelling has become a common rule for more effective communication. Better than data and statistics. The new digital media are also helping to perfect this approach, according to Andrea Fontana, lecturer in Corporate Storytelling at the University of Pavia and president of Storyfactory, a company that helps brands, companies and people tell their stories. “Technology”, he says, “is significantly changing the way we tell stories, but not the core principles of our profession”.
What it means to be a storyteller
To fully understand this profession, its present and future, we should take a step back and understand what storytelling is. “It is no longer merely a discipline, it is the context of life and work in which we all exist. It ranges from Youtube video-novels to Instagram Stories, from brand narratives to brand journalism: we now live in an incessant flow of content and information to work, play, train and distract us”, highlights Fontana.
A continuous flow in which it is often difficult to disentangle oneself: Instagram averages nearly 95 million photos posted within 24 hours and 3.5 million shares and likes added every day, while 236 videos are posted every minute on Tik Tok.
A veritable narrative ‘siege’. “Storytelling is needed for this reason, because it provides a set of tools for companies to make themselves heard and emotionally engage their target audience, while at the same time increasing the value of their brand and products. Companies are also able to share internal experiences and working practices and optimise their online reputation”, concludes Fontana.
A company today is no longer viewed as a sort of ‘institution’ set in stone, but as a human and personal experience.
Talking about oneself and one’s business is as vital for companies as it is for people, since, otherwise, there is a risk that it will be a competitor, a detractor or simply someone who does not know you well.
The contribution of digital
Technology has changed everything. “Our every act of cultural, physical, emotional consumption depends on online and offline narrative plots, fragmentary or complete narratives. Technology has changed our body of knowledge, but it remains a mere means to an end. The real issue is the ‘fiction economy‘, the fact that we now live in a reality and an economy where the symbolic-technological, emotional and value side of reality and things has the upper hand over the useful and functional side. And this revolutionises everything, even the world of storytelling”, Fontana points out.
The rationale is clear. “A company today is no longer viewed as a sort of ‘institution’ set in stone, but as a human and personal experience. The difference is therefore made in terms of a corporate narrative that can be built around factors such as one’s figure, one’s company or one’s products or services”, concludes Fontana.
Companies therefore also need to address their target audience, and to do so, they need the help of digital technology. “In some ways, new technologies have contributed to creating my work”, explains Daniele Orzati, storyteller and Head of Strategy at Storyfactory. “In the old days, when the mass media did all the work, one piece of content sufficed for sales: horizontal, immediate, attractive. Nowadays, if I want to use the available communication channels, especially social media, I have to offer a wealth of information, content and stories. And these channels are no longer one-way, there is a necessary interaction with the audience”.
Careers and training
If storytelling is an innate human experience, it is certainly not always enough. “Becoming a storyteller requires honing one’s skills and a long process of study and practice. I still remember when I just started at the University of Pavia, at a time when social media had not yet been born: activities differed considerably from the ones we have today. Since then, I have trained many who are now experts and also had the opportunity to create specialisation courses both at the University of Pavia and at other Italian universities”, recalls Fontana.
After a theoretical course, often consisting of specific degree courses or training activities, including online, comes a practical phase. In most companies, the role of storyteller is carried out by a content creator or by specific consultants, who are often hired directly by companies or communication agencies.
Today, people tend to choose a product more and more if the company placing it on the market is ethical, attentive and capable of going beyond the logic of profit alone,
explains Orzati. That is why “even for the best-known companies in the market, we work by reporting their virtuous behaviour in newspapers, on digital channels and also live”.
The change is now irreversible. This is why it is essential to focus on the skills and professions capable of mastering the trend, from content managers to podcast producers, bringing growth and innovation to a sector that will become increasingly important in the next few years in the strategies of companies and brands.