Stories can backfire as a persuasive tool.
Especially when the story is used to sell facts that could easily sell themselves.
For example, you are trying to sell your company to a dream candidate.
And there are several facts that make this appealing:
– A work from anywhere policy
– 3 months annual leave
– A salary that is at least double the industry standard
As tempting as it may be to turn these facts into a story, that may not be necessary according to this article from Kellog:
Because facts in isolation require interpretation. They require people to chew on them for a bit, to scrutinise and evaluate them, in order to decide what they really mean.
Whereas a story about a colleague who worked from 7 different countries this last year, went on an extended meditation retreat, then bought their dream house, may not be as persuasive as the facts alone.
Because, according to this research, stories prevent people from scrutinising information carefully. Instead of chewing, scrutinising and evaluating, they simply process.
When trying to appeal to a range of different audiences, stories become kinda complicated, because they must relate to each and every person in order to have an impact.
A story of a globe trotting, meditating, dream-house-buying coworker may not resonate with someone who prefers stability, practicality and minimalism. A different story would need to be spun for such a person.
And why spin a different story when you could instead just present the facts and let people spin their own stories?
The flip side of this, is if you have a WEAK set of facts, then stories help a great deal!
So if you were to persuade using the following set of facts:
– A strict office policy with fixed hours
– Two weeks annual leave
– A salary that is just under the industry standard
Then you probably wouldn’t want people chewing, scrutinising and evaluating. You’d want them sucked into an enjoyable and memorable story that shut off their critical thinking functions.
Which also brings up a word of warning…
Don’t fall for sales pitches that depend too heavily on stories!