The Power Of A Story

Storytelling is all the rage these days and we know why…

In a business world that talks a great deal about ‘storytelling’, have you ever stopped to think about what makes a great story? What are the elements of a story that really help to form emotional and rational connections? And, how might we as consumer insights professionals really embrace storytelling to help our clients’ make better business decisions?

During the Quirk’s East Event in Brooklyn, NY, Layla Shea, Chief Insights Officer and I were inspired by an incredibly skillful presentation from Dave Decelle, Director Consumer Insights at Netflix and Ted Frank, Backstories Studio. Their topic was From Stats to Storyboard, focused on how to use compelling storytelling with insights, shared in a simple but impactful way while eliminating the data ‘noise’. Always committed to challenging ourselves with our clients at the heart, this presentation really resonated deeply.


At Upwords, we’ve always focused on providing deeper, actionable insights for our clients and have worked to hone storytelling. However, as an industry we can be hesitant to take the next confident step in eliminating the ‘noise’ – the detail and the data to which we often cling. Dave and Ted aren’t saying this goes away into the ether – it can still be made available for clients who need it. What they’re saying is to go forth with conviction and to take a leap to challenge ourselves using some key ‘story’ principles in our reporting.


Top Storytelling Ideas

Ted and Dave’s ideas to keep top of mind in telling stories included:

  • Keep the story linear for clarity and simplicity
  • Get to the heart; highlight what matters and cut out everything else
  • Make it real by establishing a setting, characters and actions
  • Make it powerful and emotional; satisfy the rational and appeal to the emotional
  • Use tension to draw the audience in
  • Decrease the presentation deck dramatically


In the past few weeks, we took a big leap ourselves at Upwords and completely redefined ‘story’ for our clients with these principles top-of-mind. We ‘wowed’ our clients (and ourselves!), connecting our clients to the consumer insights much more deeply. It was well worth the effort and the impact. Insights, when shared through a story are not lost in the data but rise to the top and truly become actionable.


Go beyond Insight

As researchers, we are not merely digging for human truths but also have the unique role and responsibility of sharing those insights in such a way that helps bring clarity and actionability to business decisions. By simplifying our reports to eliminate the data ‘noise’ that can easily permeate research findings, we can do much more than just share ‘findings’ – we can start to tell meaningful and powerful stories that have the potential to be understood, and remembered and influence decisions. What an amazing and exciting role we play as conduits through which the voice of the consumer can be heard!


Think about the traditional components of a story – there are characters, there is a setting, a plot, tension and conflict, then there is resolution. So when you dive into your next report, ask yourself, what might translate the data into a far more concise story that draws on connection points, contrasts and epiphanies that surface with the data simply as a foundation? Let’s challenge ourselves as an industry to go deeper, take the leap and tell the story!