I'm about to tell you a new story about stories—one you need to know because of all the other new things, social and digital, going on in the world. But before I do, let's make sure we're in sync on what has made "story" the stuff of life since the beginning of time.
If you're a marketer, a blogger, a politician, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a parent, a corporate executive, a lawyer, or a human being in today's hyper-messaged world, you don't want to miss this.
Ronald Reagan, the late actor-turned-president who was known by Republicans and Democrats alike as "The Great Communicator," didn't start speeches on "the multi-lateral imperative of deficit reduction" with facts and figures. Instead, he'd tell you a story about a little girl in a yellow dress. Within a minute or two, when even the most cynical listeners were unconsciously disarmed and pulled in by the parable, Reagan would move over to the hard business of the day's talk.
He knew what a great sales trainer once told me: Spend two hours telling a prospect every fact about your product—and he'll forget 95% in 10 minutes. But tell him a story, and, 20 years later, he'll repeat it to you word for word.
Linguists and anthropologists generally agree that storytelling has been the most effective way to penetrate mental defenses and stick a message in the human mind. Something in our hardwiring actually hypnotizes us when we hear the words: "Let me tell you a story…."
Our unconscious can't resist letting stories in, and their stamp on human nature is everywhere. We're all born to be instant, natural storytellers whenever we have a great movie to recommend, we are excited about an idea, or we have an excuse to give our kindergarten teacher.
We're also massive economic consumers of story each day. Worldwide, we pay a staggering amount of disposable income for books, movies, TV, videogames, and other media—enough to prove Robert McKee's point that story isn't just entertainment, it's an indispensible psychic need for people that must be replenished like food and air. Good tip for any communicator...