Impact storytelling: 10 tips to make business impact


Impact storytelling has emerged as the number one leadership and influencing skill for the next decade. At a recent event held by How To Impact, I discussed how impact storytelling allows business leaders to power innovation and deepen engagement with a panel including the leading voice in the art of corporate impact storytelling, Yamini Naidu, and one of Australia’s top documentary filmmakers, Stephen Oliver.



Storytelling has become a mandatory tool for business looking to take people on any journey of change and progression. As an innovation consultancy, impact storytelling is probably the number one tool in our armoury; successful innovation pivots on the discovery and the sharing of powerful stories. In a world where we are inundated with data, engaging people emotionally through purposeful storytelling is the best way to cut through the white noise and make an impact.

10 tips for impact storytelling

1. Businesses need to adapt faster than ever or pay the consequences; 70% of the Fortune 1000 Companies from 2004 no longer exist, so failing to adapt to your audience within the overcrowded space can have serious consequences.

2. According to Yamini Naidu, our attention span lasted 20 minutes 100 years ago.  Nowadays, our attention span has shrunk to a mere 9 seconds and workers receive twice as many emails as they did only four years ago; even successful organisations are competing harder for our ever-stretched attention.

3. We are now presented with an excess of information and data.  People do not need any more data or information, they need connection and inspiration which can be provided by impact storytelling.

4. Change can feel threatening, even if it’s mandatory; impact storytelling in particular can be difficult because it requires a level of self-exposure.

5. Businesses have had to learn how to move from the ‘hard power’ of ‘telling’ to the ‘soft power’ of ‘showing’ in order to reassure and motivate their audience base which is why story-telling is such a crucial business tool.  Teaching people to let go of convention through the art of storytelling can lead to true innovation.

6. In innovation, we often use ‘parallel worlds’ to help gain some perspective on a challenge as well as inspiration about how to tackle it. When looking to introduce a step-change in investment behaviour we spoke to counsellors, business and life-coaches, narcotics anon, and even dog-trainers for inspiration about how they tackle the challenge of changing behaviour. This is because we’re too often myopic about our own problems and we need to ‘envision’ success through someone else’s story.

7. While stories need to be purposeful and backed up by hard data, they must be authentic and engage people emotionally.  This engagement will ensure your business can cut through the white noise of information presented to people on a daily basis and attain longevity as a company.

8. Audiences can sense when there is something authentic and revelatory; this is when they’ll engage and want to share this authenticity with others. It’s critical that your audience believes in your message and that you allow them to find their own story too.

9. Gaining direct feedback from your audience is crucial in business development. Fortunately, technology is rapidly advancing our ability to open up greater interaction; whether that’s through the use of social media to create a two-way dialogue, or in the evolution of immersive technologies like 360 cameras and virtual reality.

10. If you accept that you are an advocate for your organisation, you need to sharpen your impact storytelling skills. Anyone can pick up a camera or rattle off an anecdote, but powerful story-telling takes practice, requires a library of stories and an open mind-set that many business leaders don’t yet have.

Stephen Oliver has written and directed documentaries, factual series, comedy and commercials for the world’s most prestigious broadcasters about all manner of subjects from polygamous pop stars to Islamic extremists and even the odd heroic marsupial. He has just finished writing, directing and series producing “Stop Laughing…. this is Serious” a landmark three part ABC series on the history of Australian comedy featuring classic archival footage and an extensive raft of big name interviewees.

Twitter: @stephengoliver




Yamini Naidu is the director of Yamini Naidu Consulting and co-author of Hooked: How leaders connect, engage & inspire using storytelling.  She recently featured in the highly respected Financial Review Boss Magazine where her clients document their successes with storytelling. An economist by training, she works with business leaders all over the world helping them inspire through storytelling.

Twitter: @yamininaidu_



About Matt Whale

Matt Whale is the Managing Director and Founder of How To Impact. He is a leader of innovation strategy, insight and delivery, with a 20+ year career in creative consultancy in Australia and in Europe. He brings a combination of left- and right-brain thinking that has helped unlock innovation challenges in over 150 different innovation briefs. How To Impact is proudly part of a four-agency collective, the Deepend Group. The Deepend Group portfolio includes the leading specialist agencies Deepend (Digital), How To Impact (Innovation), Nomad (Mobile) and History Will Be Kind (PR/Social Media). The Deepend Group is an independent, digital communications and innovation consultancy group.

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