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How to tell better stories with your insight

I was presenting at the MRS Storytelling conference on Thursday. There was loads of great content around how to tell better stories with research and insight. Practical tips telling us what to do. And inspirational sessions showing us how it’s done.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t synthesise all this brilliant thinking. So here are the six things I took away. I hope they’ll help you tell better stories yourself.


  1. Include storytelling from the start
  • Start with your goal in mind. What sort of story to you need to tell? To who? And to what end?
  • You should be writing your headlines as you go. That way, you know you’ve hit on an insight worth sharing and a story worth writing
  • And think about your medium. Does it need to be a film, a slide deck, a podcast? This needs to be carefully planned and built into your process


  1. Editing can make or break your story
  • Professional video-editing can really make a story sing (or sink). It’s worth spending the time getting it right. And this can mean a lot of time. Chris Martin at Flex MR reckons 30-60 minutes per one minute of final content
  • Be ruthless when editing your content. Superfluous information will only distract your audience and dilute your main message
  • Don’t feel you have to include everything in your story. The evidence can sit somewhere else

It’s about connecting things in people’s minds rather than providing all the evidence.

  1. Meet stakeholders where they are
  • Know your audience. Think about the style of communication that works for them. This might be a quick chat in the kitchen or a two-bullet point email. It depends
  • Find common ground with stakeholders and use that as the bridge in your story
  • Instead of telling people what to do, pose questions? Don’t be overly sure of the answer. Lean on their expertise, collaborate, and have them develop their own solutions
  • Don’t take their criticism personally – just use it to tell a better story


  1. Stories need emotion and a happy ending
  • Start with a customer quote or video as your hook
  • Real stories of real people are more powerful than data. The stories collected by the FA of women becoming football leaders through its community programme showcased this brilliantly
  • Take stakeholders to a “happy place” at the end. People always remember the last thing they hear. And you create the right environment for action if this final message focuses on what’s possible, connecting your story to the business and its strategy


  1. Accept the different hats we all wear
  • We all have a different view of reality. The brand team views things from a brand point of view, product teams are looking for product innovations etc. This doesn’t mean one is more right than another. But it does mean all stakeholders have a different perspective. Embrace it
  • But don’t exclude yourself from this. Put your agenda to one side and accept that you too have an agenda and view of reality that’s different to your stakeholders
  • Only by triangulating all the knowledge we have, can you build a consensus view which takes into account all these (potentially contradictory) realities


  1. Stay away from PowerPoint
  • Probably my favourite tip from the day. I’m not saying stay away forever. But stay away until you *absolutely* know what you’re trying to say. It’ll stop you including too much, showing your working, and diluting a strong story.


We all accept the customer insight sector needs to get better at telling its stories. Living by these six is the perfect place to start.


Photo by Olga Tutunaru on Unsplash

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