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Storytelling + Data = Persuasive Content

persuasive content

Before we tell you in detail about persuasive content, let’s start with this…

Life of every human on this planet is constantly subject to decisions. We are facing decisions, simplest of them to toughest of them. Our brains provide us with answers every time but it is natural to come up with a different decision for same problems at different points in time. Why is that so? This is because there are two major parts of our brains that play a part in decision making. One of them influences the process of decision making emotionally and the other rationally. Both have their own importance but usually, marketers try to hit either of them while convincing people. Which is why they can’t get results as successful as they possibly can.

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Emotional vs rational mind. Who wins?

Emotional VS Rational Mind

However, which of the two parts of our brain has more influence over the decisions we make it a long, heated debate. The people, except psychologists, are equally divided in supporting either of the two. Interestingly and surprisingly, experiments and tests show that the emotional part is always more influential. Yes, that is quite surprising.

According to common sense, the rational parts of our brains should be more involved when we’re making decisions, especially important, big decisions. The reality, however, is completely in contrast. The emotional side always has more to put in because pure objectivity is unachievable. And when it is about important decisions, emotional part wins fairly.

This is because important decisions are to be made usually for problems that we do not face frequently; that is one reason they are important. When we are not used to of one situation, we try to gather enough information about it and that stresses our rational brain. Because the rational brain is stressed, it gets vulnerable and emotional brain takes over. Hence, clearly, emotional brain has much more impact in our decisions than rational brains.

Storytelling and data

Just like normal people prefer one of the two sides of the brain, different marketers and businesspersons try to persuade either the emotional side or the rational side. However, as evident, emotional brain matters more and therefore more of them target this side. They do this via storytelling. Stories attract listeners emotionally and they nearly ignore the core reason a story is being told to them. Emotions take humans beyond rationality and critical thinking, as mentioned above. Thus, storytelling technique can keep a listener from critical decision making, like cost benefit analysis etc. ultimately, this technique is more likely to produce favorable results to marketers and sellers.

On the other hand, some people try to show their audiences data and statistics regarding their problem. By this, they are trying to access and persuade the rational part of the listener’s brain considering the fact that numbers are taken as unbiased by general audience. However, it does not provide as positive results as storytelling. There is a simple study done that can clearly explain this idea.

persuasive content

A certain class of students was asked to prepare a 60 second persuasive plot and present it to the class. Naturally, like we usually do, each student put in statistical data into their pitch thinking it will convince listeners. One of them, however, included a story. After each student was done presenting, everyone was given a paper and asked to write down every pitch they exactly remember except their own. Not more than 5% of the pupils remembered any stats and 63% of them, surprisingly, remembered the story. You can trackback to aforementioned discussion over emotional versus rational influence to reason this.

Why is storytelling influential?

Statistical data is dry and does not attract the listener. It does not matter to a normal listener to know that a certain piece of cake contains 40% less fat than others, for instance. Something like,” Warm chocolate oozed out of the center of the cake, swirling with mocha eddies of ice cream” is more probable to persuade a customer to buy that cake.

It is usual brain activity to put itself as a protagonist in the story it is listening and project an image around. Hence, listeners can experience themselves in the story and personally connect to the idea you are trying to give them. With this, they will have a bias created towards it which will overpower rationality, ultimately persuading them to go as you want them to.

A study was conducted over a certain number of people. Some of them were given a story of a poor African girl who died of hunger and others got the statistics of children died in Africa over the past few years out of hunger. It turns out that people who read the story donated twice as much as people who read the facts. This shows how influential storytelling can be.

Numbers have their own significance

Emotional attachment does overpower rationality, but that does not mean one can completely ignore the power of numbers. Everyone likes to know how much the world’s wealthiest person earns, how much percentage of one’s salary gets deducted for taxes, or how much likes do someone get on their Facebook display picture, for that matter.

Neuroscience shows that humans tend to take numbers as totally unbiased. It is safer to believe on what statistics show than what a story or storytellers tell. That is because we naturally have an assumption that numbers do not lie, despite that fact that any statistic can be converted in any manner to support almost any theory. Numbers and stats, therefore, hold an objective idea which is fairly influential at times.

The primary reason why stats and numbers convince less people (or people less) is that these figures are usually not used in the correct way. If used correctly, they can prove to be highly strong convincing material.

What to do?

Going with either of the two approaches is merely a compromise. Just like storytelling captures one part of the brain, data and stats capture the other. None of them captures the complete brain and therefore, a common-ground is to be found. If there is any tactic that captures the mind both emotionally and rationally, no one would go with storytelling or data.

The best approach while presenting persuasive data is to include both the techniques together. A story that has factual data included in it at right points is the most convincing thing a person will ever come across. The story will arrest the audience emotionally and the facts will reinforce the authenticity and fairness of the story.

Hence, if you are writing a paper, presenting, or using any medium, start with grabbing your audience’s attention with a story. Blend it with facts related to the point you are making in the story to prove your point. And your audience will never stop reading or listening to you. They will keep thinking about your idea because they were emotionally attached, and they will probably do something about it because it logically makes sense to them.

Therefore, it is better if presenting numbers and data in our persuasive speech is used as a supporting, reinforcing information. The bigger, main picture of the speech should be based on storytelling and a part of it can be information. This is how a speaker, marketer, or writer etc. can be the most persuasive. To put it simple, data is highly influential if used as a subset of a story.

Conclusion

The human brain comprises of two major parts: the emotional part and the rational part. Both have their own impacts while we make decisions. Emotional part, astonishingly, has more impact on the decisions we make than rational, despite the fact that we consider our decisions rational. These two parts are targeted by convincers to persuade audiences.

Emotional and rational parts of a human mind are approached using two different techniques by marketers while being persuasive. Storytelling attaches people emotionally, while data and numerical information makes logic to them. This is because minds automatically relate to stories and numbers are taken as completely unbiased.

However, using either of the two techniques will not produce the most persuasive content. The only way this can be done is to use both the techniques, with numerical data being a part of the major story-ish idea of the speech. This way, audiences will be attached emotionally to the idea while the numbers will prove that the idea is absolutely unbiased.

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