Thursday 7 May 2020


Posted by
Andrew Platt-Higgins

As a seasoned employment brand practitioner well versed in working with the C-suite and senior management teams around the world, it’s fair to say that I’ve accrued a few trusty wisdoms through the years. And this much I know. For all the worthy star-gazing and genuine creative angst invested in shaping a compelling narrative, the key to bringing alive a defined proposition is an act of good science rather than one of artistic endeavour.

Before I upset my right-side-of-the-brain colleagues too much, let me explain my truth and evidence my proofpoint. Or rather, let me allow the Scientists to do it for me. Because science has unlocked the secret to storytelling more irrefutably than any focus group ever will. Successive research has shown that the human brain is hard-wired to react to stories in the most profound of ways. Study of the human brain’s evolution and real-time tracking of neuro-activity suggests that deep in prehistory, our ancestors learned about the world around them through the storytelling of others. It enabled our species to make sense of the mysterious and unknown, to trust the most reliable information available in a volatile and uncertain world. Stories became, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

The proof resonates deep in our cerebral vortex and drives our emotions, even today. And it’s all down to a neurochemical called Oxytocin, which exists purely to build trust and empathy. Once released in our brains, Oxytocin causes very powerful reactions indeed. It’s why you might start perspiring the moment your hero in an action movie finds themself in a tight spot. It’s the trigger that makes you jump when something nasty happens suddenly to a film character you like. You perspire and jump because you have built an empathy with the subject: you are immersed in their reality.


Having measured the power of empathy – there’s 500% more Oxytocin released when listening to an engaging story than when viewing a ppt presentation – scientists realised “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. So shaping your narrative to build empathy really does win hearts and minds; and we’ll look in detail at the four elements of great storytelling – Relatability, Originality, Questionability and Authenticity – in a future blog.

It comforts me that there’s a science base to defining reasons to believe. And it hopefully reassures those who look to our Proposition Development Workshop for an objective method of engaging with that nearunfathomable: the human mind.

Andrew Platt-Higgins, EVP & Strategic Communications, PeopleStory.


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