Good Storytelling Needn’t Be A Fool’s Game

Published: 28 March 2018

What could communicators and thought leaders learn from April Fools' Day pranks?

Lies told on 1 April are little white ones, with little consequence other than causing momentary confusion, and occasional panic. In the world of thought leadership communications, there is no place for lying or falsehoods at all.

Easter weekend brings rest, relaxation, contemplation and chocolate for many of us. This year, it also coincides with April Fools’ Day. This quirky annual event is a magnet for audacious and often amusing fake stories, splashed across newspapers and sprung on unsuspecting friends and family.

Some of the stories we hear display real creativity and ingenuity, often based on a current trend to provide the appearance of potentially being real. Highlights from last year include the Royal Mint introducing 99p coins, the UK pulling out of Eurovision, and George Osborne setting up his own fashion label.

Frivolous as these are, it takes a good deal of imagination to create something which fools readers and listeners (for a few seconds at least), and which also draws grudging nods of appreciation. Which begs a question: what could communicators and thought leaders learn from April Fools’ pranks?

Let’s clarify one thing immediately. Lies told on 1 April are little white ones, with little consequence other than causing momentary confusion, and occasional panic. In the world of thought leadership communications, there is no place for lying or falsehoods at all.

However, I do not think we should discount the fact that the pranksters who emerge among us for one day a year are gifted storytellers. They create tension and drama in each story, and often appeal to reason to explain why things are unfolding. In the case of the 99p coin story above, for example, its existence would supposedly do away with unwanted 1p coins in circulation. The UK pulling out of Eurovision was a (not so) subtle nod to Brexit.

Thought leadership content is increasingly being used as a way to shape thinking, offer new perspectives and boost opportunities to collaborate. Underpinning all these aims is the ability to persuade. To do this effectively, organisations need to remember to appeal to emotion as well as reason and add feeling to the facts. Here are three tactics to consider, in order to ensure your content includes this all-important element:

  • Consider an analogy to help your argument come to life. Avoid the temptation to resort to clichés, but finding a comparator or theme which reflects the thrust of your content can help it connect with readers or listeners.
  • Share some of your own feelings. There can be a temptation, particularly in corporate communications, to tone down the author’s own reaction to new evidence. Thought leadership can be the ideal vehicle to introduce this and enrich the narrative as a result.
  • Make a prediction. Combine your evidence with your insights and suggest a potential outcome which will grab the audience’s attention. Predictions are also good conversation starters.

April Fools will never make good thought leaders. Because they omit a central plank of any thought leadership content: being evidence-led. A grounding in research adds weight to our assertions and opens the door to us finding things we did not know were there. But when it comes to injecting emotion and telling a good story, we’d be Fools ourselves not to learn from the best pranks this year.

Tom Yazdi
Associate Director

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