Stories are so ubiquitous, we often take them for granted.  But as you’ll discover in our next Craft Marketing presentation, they are marketer’s secret weapon.

Michael and Dave Neelsen of StoryFirst will present “Why Our Brains and Your Customers Cannot Resist Stories” on September 24, 2019, at Vintage Brewing on Whitney Way. (Register here!)

StoryFirst Media was founded by Dave and Michael in a French Café in Austin, Texas in 2009. Since then they’ve built a talented collective of storytellers and collaborators from the worlds of marketing and filmmaking and have served clients from international corporations to local businesses and non-profits in telling their stories to build connections with their audiences and customers.

We asked Dave Neelsen about StoryFirst’s upcoming presentation:

You said that our minds have evolved to think in “story terms.” What does that mean?

To paraphrase Salman Rushdie, we are fundamental  “storytelling animals: the only animals that tell themselves stories to understand what kind of animals they are.” 

We have been framing the world in terms of characters, goals, and obstacles for over 100,000 years. Over a length of time as long as that, evolution takes over as it sees storytelling as adaptive to living. 

Today, modern neuroscience has revealed that our conscious mind does not receive raw sensory information from the world around us – it receives a small amount of raw information that fits a narrative. 

This is earth-shattering news because it means that storytelling is not a choice – it happens whether we want it to or not. Then the questions become about what you do with that knowledge.

You’re going to share some examples of how stories have evolved. Can you give us some ideas of what we’ll be seeing?

You’ll be seeing examples from marketing, entertainment, branding, and culture. Our goal will be to show you that no matter the medium or the platform, the fundamentals of storytelling do not change. All that changes is how, where, and why we do it given your particular audience.

How does this apply to today’s marketers?

The idea that storytelling happens within all our brains automatically is vitally important to understand if you’re putting any ideas into the world. 

What it means is that if you have a piece of data or information that you want an audience to hear a particular way, the only way to assure they receive that message is to know their story well enough that you can organize the data into “story terms” that will not encounter resistance. 

The idea that “the facts speak for themselves” was never true. If you put raw data to an audience, they will all interpret it to fit (or not fit) their own narratives. The answer is to put your data into “story terms” that easily plug into those preconceptions.

This will be our first father-son presentation. Can you tell us a little about how your company came together?

It was entirely by chance. We don’t have a “family business” in the traditional sense where Michael was raised with the idea that he would one day join and take over. I was seeing the story as a new way forward for marketing around 2007-2009, and he was a storyteller in his own right as a filmmaker in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. 

We slowly came to realize we were speaking similar languages and thought there might be a wonderful opportunity to combine our skills to create a business together while simultaneously deepening our relationship as father and son. I’d suggest watching this short video to learn more about our relationship:

What will be the big takeaways for marketers?

We will be providing marketers with some recent scientific evidence supporting the idea that we are storytelling animals and that story is fundamental to the human experience. We will then present some basic tools to help you put your data into “story terms” as soon as you leave the talk. 

These will not be exhaustive instructions, and we will be careful to insist that while science helps us to understand how the brain responds to the narrative, storytelling as a practice is still an art and there is no formula. However, there are some simple tricks and tips that get you on the right path and clarify how to tell your story in a very practical way.

Click here to sign up for AMA Madison’s September Craft Marketing event!

Greg Mischio is the Owner and Strategic Director of Winbound. Winbound is a content marketing firm that provides an all-in-one content marketing and conversion optimization package specifically designed for small marketing departments. Read his post on how to start content marketing. Twitter: @gregmischio

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