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Why Storytelling is Essential to Successful Research

Paul Donagher, Radius Insights, Radius Global Market Research 2021/08/paul-donagher-bio.jpg

by Paul Donagher

Director, Client Services

Recently, we provided a learning session to one of our clients on how to tell stories using market research data. It was a pleasure to share with them the learnings we’ve developed over the last few years as we’ve invested in enhancing our skills in this area. As I was preparing for that session I spent some time on their website (I figured I could use something they may not be aware of from their website, because who among us really has a thorough knowledge of what’s on our corporate website).  In doing this I found myself becoming the listener as much as the storyteller. And something I found became an integral part of the message we ended up delivering to their team.

They had described a wonderful story on their website that brought many of the elements that make a great story. In fact, they used stories on their website the same way we must use them as market researchers. There are two key elements to this:

  • First, stories recreate a primal exchange between the teller and the listener, something every known culture has in common. People like stories.
  • Second, stories help us remember facts, in some cases up to 20x longer. That’s because storytelling appeals to us no matter the type of learner that we are. Forty percent of people are visual learners – videos, diagrams etc., 40% are auditory (lectures and discussions) and 20% are kinesthetic learners (meaning they learn by doing or experiencing). Storytelling appeals to and has aspects that appeal to all types of learners.

Pie chart with 40% visual, 40% auditory, and 20% kinesthetic learners

But surely the importance of telling stories in research must be about more than the fact that people like stories and might remember a data point because of them, right? Our point of view is ‘yes’, that the real value of stories is they can influence and shape behavior in optimal ways. Good stories have a beginning, middle and end. Our friend, and storyteller, Park Howell, contends that a great story has a Setup, a Conflict and a Resolution. It is through the Resolution that we can, as good market researchers and storytellers, drive change for our clients and stakeholders. This is where the effort that has gone into collecting data and building a narrative comes to fruition.

The real value of stories is they can influence and shape behavior in optimal ways.”

Corporate websites provide many functions, one of which is obviously to impact behavior. Stories and other elements that we see everyday on the websites of our favorite brands are primed to do this. The same holds true in a market research setting; great stories end with a Resolution that drives business change; making them an essential ingredient of truly effective, impactful research.

In our upcoming blogs, we’ll be sharing principles of delivering an impactful story, how storytelling supports activation, and best practices in visualization of data.

Want to discuss creating more impactful stories with your research?

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