So just how important is storytelling for business? Very, and it is all about 'pathos' 'logos' and 'ethos'


For new business, for motivation, and for any form of communication, storytelling is extremely important. Particularly for a business or product that is pushing boundaries, challenging tradition, or disrupting markets.

Personally, I think that too much of our market (that happens to be industrial inkjet) is focused on analysis, with technical facts and features. These are not irrelevant ingredients for success. But for effective storytelling, they are only a part of the picture. 

To break into new markets, to attract new customers, to resonate on a higher level, effective storytelling is essential.

Humans are hard-wired for stories. We respond to stories of struggle, of overcoming adversity, of winning against the odds. We are enthralled by good against evil, of courage and ‘derring’ do, and of failure and success.

Too often I hear business stories that simply merge into a standard format: Established in 1992 blah blah, and then a chronological history of the company and then the technical features of a product. It may present credibility in some way, but it doesn’t make we want to talk to the presenter afterwards.

Of course, the story has to be real, and true, I am not suggesting we need to ‘spin a yarn’.

Carmine Gallo in ‘The Storytellers Secret’ says that the most compelling business storytellers of all time, including the lauded Steve Jobs, dedicated 65% of their content to emotional and non-logical storytelling.

And in the book, Gallo cites Aristotle as a great source of inspiration for modelling great storytelling – he draws this from a TED Talk which achieved the longest standing ovation - that given by Bryan Stevenson who Gallo describes as a master persuader. He says that if a story has Pathos (triggering emotion through narrative) then it will be more successful and impactful. Then 25% is given to logos (facts, figures and statistics) – whilst 10% is given to ethos – (credibility and track record).

This may make some people squirm a little. But fear not, one doesn’t have to concoct a story designed to make someone emotional, overly excited, or distressed in any way. This has to work with whatever style it is you have, brand values you have and personality you possess. But a story that connects on a human level is simply going to be more powerful than one that misses the mark.

So do you need some logos?

For the scientists among us, this argument is indeed backed up by fact. If the heart is more powerful than the brain in terms of persuasion, then the path to the heart is through the amygdala which is obviously a part of the brain. As Gallo says in his book, “Scientists are finding that the very same reward centres of the brain are also involved in persuasion, motivation, and memory.” So if you can trigger an element of empathy from the listener, then that person will automatically identify with you. 

To discover this fact it was discovered through brain scans that the same part of the brain that is stimulated by taking drugs, drinking alcohol, eating food, gambling etc were triggered by great storytelling. It is simply a potent method for moving people.

Of course, humour, relevance, and surprise can be factored in. But the building blocks of a good story are based on those three factors.

The point is, once you’ve moved the audience, you can educate them far more effectively as they have accepted you, like you, and your chances of success are therefore heightened.

We will be covering effective storytelling as part of LiT ‘Leaders in Technology’ Summit on 28th June in Cambridge. Why not join us?