The Magical Science of Storytelling
Many experts agree that, telling school stories that inspire, excite, and encourage your school community is at the heart of successful school branding and critical to your school’s success. What stories come out of your school each day? What do people say about your school? Instead of allowing everyone else’s stories to daily spread through hallways, parking lots, or on the sidelines of a sporting event, create added value by asking your school administration and staff to join in the conversation. Let's briefly look at a scientific side of storytelling.
In a recent TEDx talk about storytelling, David JP Phillips explains how stories affect us physically. His presentation entertains and informs. Phillips presents evidence to suggest that storytelling is, in fact, the most powerful tool we possess. Phillips describes the positive effects of storytelling using three components of storytelling. When properly mixed in, you create what Phillips calls the “angel cocktail.”
- First, tell stories that get people excited
As human beings, we are programmed to tune in to stories. So whenever you share stories, your listeners get excited. Listening to this type of story increases levels of dopamine and affects your audience. Just by telling a story, your listeners experience an added measure of focus and attention as well as increased memory and motivation.
- Second, touching stories bring people together
If you are willing, expose vulnerable aspects of yourself by sharing times when you experienced difficulty or stories of others in tragic situations. The effects on your audience lead your listeners to feelings of trust, empathy, and generosity; they also feel more relaxed. This is because the listener's levels of oxytocin have increased. Phillips describes this effect saying the listeners feel “more human.”
- Lastly, don’t forget to make them laugh
When you tell jokes and stories that make people laugh, you’re not only giving people a chuckle and a smile, you’re giving them something more. Stories that make them laugh increase their endorphins. Increased endorphin levels increase creativity, focus, and relaxation.
There is an opposite to this mixture, which Phillips calls “the Devil’s cocktail.”
- The "Devil’s Cocktail"
The "devil’s cocktail" combines emotions that result in unproductive feelings. Stressful situations, irritating noise, or negative feelings increase our levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which fosters feelings of intolerance, irritability, cynicism, poor decision making, impaired memory, and lack of creativity. What an unpleasant mix!
Functional storytelling, storytelling that builds trust, encourages relationships, improves memory and recall, and relaxes and focuses your audience is done using the angel cocktail elements. You don’t need all three components in every story; that may be emotion overkill—but make sure you incorporate at least one in your school stories.
Stories that educate, inspire, and entertain us carry with them underlying themes that we connect back to the organization involved. Its scientific background affirms that storytelling is an extremely powerful and useful tool in school branding. Since stories can bring people together, storytelling should be at the heart of school marketing and strategic communication plans for all schools.
Stories & Your School Websites
Social media cannot be the only place you tell your school stories. In fact, if anything, your school social media should serve as a secondary platform for your stories. Your primary platform needs to be your school website. However, sometimes schools neglect their online home. If you take anything away from this, let it be this: Your school website is the best place to share your stories, your way!
Let me explain. Gatekeeping is a process through which information is filtered. Journalism students learn that journalists are the “gatekeepers” of the news. It’s a sad-but-true fact that sometimes our schools don’t receive the coverage they deserve because the “gatekeepers” don’t think it’s “news.” You are the gatekeeper of your school website! Fill your district news page with stories from around your district and your school news pages with stories from your classrooms and hallways. Then you can use your social media to drive traffic to your website where your audience can read those stories.
So, what’s your story? How are you going to tell it? And who’s going to hear it? It’s time to invest in your school’s stories.
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