Headshot of a smiling women with long flowing dark hairAnu Singh, Fiserv
January 15, 2022

Ever wondered why do we need a story? We need a compelling story to expand our content reach and engage our audience.

A good story enhances mindfulness in users and they process information more quickly. This helps organizations establish trust and emotional connections with the user. As a result, the overall feelings bring content alive and create an engaging and immersive experience that makes our users feel enabled and successful. It is true that we need relevant information for our users to be successful and we need content to be simple and precise; however, when we tell a compelling story to our users, we are creating a persistent, meaningful, and responsive conversation that engages them with a wide variety of media as well.

As an evolving society, with plenty of social platforms, we all have become storytellers in one way or the other and have at least one experience to share as a story. What do we find common in all the stories is that they are engaging, relevant, and show empathy. This leads to deeper conversation, and need for creating content that forges trust in the Industry 4.0.  Let’s take an example of a burger-making company that celebrated the 50th birthday of the Big Mac, its signature burger. The content they built was to remind people how much the world has changed but nothing has changed about its signature burger in the last 50 years. The designed posters talked about how the world has evolved to bitcoin, Spotify, and how the burger’s quality has remained consistent. The content built around the burger was a story of quality and reinforcement of trust and not about selling a big burger. Similarly, Coca-Cola’s story is about happiness and not about a carbonated drink. Consumers even ignore the immediate health concerns of the drink!

Industry 4.0 also reinforces the need for just-in-time information and learning, personalized experiences, enhanced efficiencies, discoverability, accessibility, etc. To achieve this, we need to use information and mold it into a compelling story that brings value to the intended audience and has been told in an engaging way, when, where, and how the users want it, to get their attention. Additionally, the content has to fit into different devices people use during different times of the day and stay relevant to the platform.

To weave an effective story with information, we need to understand important elements of storytelling in the business world so that we not only eliminate distractions and start thinking like a designer but also how we can make any information accessible and available to those who need it with a context. At the same time, how can we keep our content meaningful and relevant to the products and services of an organization with an enhanced customer experience?

Let’s explore some of the elements of storytelling advocated by Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher and one of the greatest thinkers of all time — plot, character, theme, diction, melody, décor, and spectacle.

  • Plot: Aristotle identified “the first essential, the life and soul, so to speak, of a story, is the Plot.” As technical communicators, we need to use a “plot” or a product, a feature, a task to define the user experience and identify features and challenges for users that would help them in their product adoption journey. For example, deploying new software.
  • Character: As technical communicators, to build a strong story, we need well-defined characters or “Persona” so that our users can identify themselves and empathize with the character to effectively use the product or services offered. For example, a System Administrator.
  • Theme: For a technical communicator, it is important to understand the creative core concept of the organization and the “why?” behind a product or service that aligns with the organization’s brand story. For example, for a Fintech organization, speed and security of the information is the theme and how we explain a feature, using the storytelling style must complement the brand story.
  • Diction: As technical communicators, it is vital to understand the choice of words and tone of voice to ensure that the story resonates well with users or the targeted audience. It is critical to use words, images to build sentences that connect with the brand to reinforce the audience’s trust while ensuring consistency in the information delivered to different audiences who might have different needs and use different platforms.
  • Melody: Means music and we could potentially translate it into a color scheme, style-sheets, formatting standards, image and page borders, Alt Text, and anything that brings consistency to the content and establishes a pattern for the story for a diverse audience. For example, white spaces and a minimalistic approach are Apple’s melody.
  • Décor: Consider décor to be the look and feel or visual aesthetics of our content on the chosen channels or delivery platform. As technical communicators, consider how we would use the Single-source or rich HTML, videos, or podcasts to relay information that our audience needs and provide them with an enhanced user experience.
  • Spectacle: Aristotle considered Spectacle to be the “least artistic” and for a technical communicator, it has its importance in making the experience memorable and adding the wow factor. We need to use tools and apply technology to our content to delight our audience. For example, build content that scores high on searchability, findability, or discoverability.

Bill Gates once said, “Content is king.” We, the technical communicators, have the opportunity to significantly impact businesses and rise up to device-effective strategies to help our users be better informed and smarter to make decisions for their businesses. Let’s weave a story that connects the dots and builds relationships with our clients and helps our organizations grow as a brand.