I’m typing this barely ninety minutes after the Prime Minister sat down following what must surely have been the most gruelling half hour of his political life.
I’m not here to comment on the garden party at 10 Downing Street that he found himself apologising for.
I’m hoping instead to help you in your business — by revealing what those thirty red hot minutes tell us about communications in 2022.
Put bluntly, they reveal the sheer power of storytelling.
Every politician knows it. Every journalist knows it. And if you in your business know it too, it will help you win clients and customers, hearts and minds.
Here’s what just happened.
The Prime Minister apologised.
The Leader of the Opposition didn’t simply call for him to resign. He used examples of people who had played by the rules during lockdown as a justification for him to resign. He told their stories.
It’s the same technique he used before Christmas — citing, amongst others, the example of Her Majesty The Queen obeying the rules during the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Other MPs stood up to condemn the Prime Minister. Some made the same points that had already been made. They were quickly forgotten.
But others quoted individuals, named, from their constituencies — who had family relatives, also named, who had suffered.
These were the MPs who, in my view, had impact. They, too, had told a story.
Journalists have been using this technique time and again since ITV News broke the news about the Downing Street party on Monday evening. They haven’t simply interviewed random people to ask what they think of it. They’ve tracked down people who have had a specific story to tell, with named relatives and some heartbreaking details that those people wanted to share.
You can hear three of these stories in this video clip here:
The story of Lisa Wilkie, who held her phone up to film her brother dying, so her mother could share the dreadful moment. The story of Alejandra Godoy, whose mother died within days of the May 2020 party. The story of Amanda McEgan, whose young daughter died that month, a child, alone.
It is the stories, in my view, that have the power.
But this doesn’t simply apply to emotional and distressing stories. PMQs revealed the power of storytelling being used in a very different way.
Conservative MPs who stood up to support the Prime Minister today routinely used the opportunity (quite legitimately) to raise an issue about their constituency, or promote an initiative they support.
Listen back today, and it’s the MPs who used the example of a person at the heart of that issue — or a person whose benefited from that initiative — who had impact.
In newsrooms, journalists have a different word for all of this. We’re always on the lookout for stories, of course — but once we’ve found them, it’s the casestudies that give the stories their power.
So if you find the phrase ‘storytelling in business’ a bit too vague, think of it as ‘case-studies in business’ instead.
Next time you’re wanting to get a key message to your staff in your monthly briefing, the starting point for that is to find the case-study … a quirky detail about the member of staff who shone, the client who complained (but had a fair point), the customer who emailed to say how much they loved your product.
Find the case-study, and you’ve discovered the story.
It doesn’t have to be emotional. It could be amusing, or inspiring. But by using a case-study to tell a story, you’re connecting with your audience in a way that facts, figures, charts and graphs can simply never do.
Like them or loathe them, journalists and politicians both know this secret.
I hope it’s a secret that can help you in your business as we await the outcome of this latest political story.
If you’ve got some great case-studies, but want to know how a journalist would turn them into a story, give me a call.