Why storytelling is so powerful in this digital era

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ashley Fell is a social researcher, keynote speaker and head of Communications at McCrindle. In her recent TED talk on The Visual Mind; Why storytelling is so powerful in this digital era, Ashley elaborates on the power of stories on our mind, and how to use them to communicate data-rich stories.

Communication has never been as important as it is today, because so much of our world is changing. We live in a world where our learning has changed. Where our interaction and how we ‘share’ has changed. Where even the concept of a story, has changed.

We are living in an age of digital disruption, in what we call 'the great screenage'. Where we now spend more time on our devices, than we ever have before. 

We live in technologically integrated times, where our attention spans are short. In times of message saturation and information overload, if you have important data to communicate, it is harder than ever to cut through the noise. 

The key to unlocking effective cut-through, is in an understanding of how the brain works.

For we know the brain is wired to processes visual imagery. When we look at how the brain retains information, words are processed by our short term memory, whereas visuals go directly into our long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.

And so the key is to present information in a way that appeals to the visual mind.

When we communicate data, our job is to move from the complex to the simple. Because the brain is more naturally wired to engage with the human, with the relatable, with a story than with just data, information and complexity alone. 

And when we think about engaging stories, whether they be novels, infographics or songs, they always have the four I’s.

Great stories create interest and capture our attention. Great stories instruct and communicate meaning. Great stories involve us. And importantly, a great story inspires. It connects not just with the eyes of the head but with the eyes of the heart.

We know the mind looks for direction and coherency. It doesn’t respond to ambiguity. And so as researchers, we navigate spreadsheets and find the intrigue and interest in the data. We fill in the blanks and communicate through the use of infographics and visualised presentations. We believe research is at its best, when it tells a story. 

When we think about visuals that create interest and engage our minds, there are three key elements.

The first is colour. Our eyes and our minds are drawn to colour. The second is picture. The content of the visual. And the third is movement. Motion and movement attract and retain our attention. That is why YouTube is so popular. For why would we read it, when we can watch it?

And so when you next have a story to tell, remember that the mind responds to visuals. That we are wired to engage and retain information visually. And that creating interest ad intrigue, especially when you are communicating data, has never been more important than in the great screenage we are living in today. 


Ashley Fell is a social researcher, TEDx speaker and Head of Communications at the internationally recognised McCrindle. As a trends analyst and media commentator she understands how to effectively communicate across diverse audiences.

From her experience in managing media relations, social media platforms and content creation, Ashley advises on how to achieve cut through in message-saturated times. She is an expert in how to communicate across generational barriers.

Download Ashley's Professional Speakers Pack here and see the McCrindle Speakers professional presenter showreel here

Contact us today to book Ashley for your next event. 

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