Insight article

And a thought from John Simmons

Thanks to John Simmons, a leading writer from the writers’ group 26, who has generously contributed to our blog, referring to an interesting example of successful storytelling this month relating to the announcement that Rio de Janeiro has won the right to stage the 2016 Olympic Games – a ‘gold medal’ of prizes for the best story…

“I remember vividly where I was when I heard that London had won the 2012 Olympics. It was four years ago during a 26 Board meeting, held appropriately enough at the offices of Storytellers. As we sat talking about the next 26 event, a whoop and a cheer went up from the room next door. Then text messages started coming in. Not everyone was pleased but I have to say I was delighted. My one chance to see the Olympics in my home city.

When the dust settled a bit, people started to analyse how London had done it. The consensus was that London had told a good story, a story about the past linking to the future. It had begun to tell that through Seb Coe’s personal story of his own childhood experiences of watching the Games and being inspired to become an athlete. And this aspirational story was reinforced in every word and image that followed.

Four years on, and there are similarities between London’s story and Rio’s – even though the two cities are so different. There is the same desire to embrace optimism, with sport helping to express it, and to leave a legacy for future generations. The man behind both campaigns, Mike Lee, has been quoted in the weekend’s papers. On Saturday he said;

“Great campaigns are built on great narratives. Everything you do has to fit in with that narrative.”

Then on Sunday he wrote in the Observer:

“As the London team did, Rio had to combine the rational and the emotional, building a story that understood the context of the Olympic movement.”

When I was working for a brand consultancy we might have substituted the word ‘brand’ for ‘story’. But story seems to me much more compelling and universal. These two Olympic campaigns are good examples of storytelling for a purpose – to win.

Recently I’ve also been writing stories for a purpose – in a different sense. I’ve been telling stories for a big financial company in another part of the world – to express the company’s purpose. The telling of factual stories led naturally to the creation of stories in many fictional genres – fantasy, fairy tale, Dan Brown, detective, chick lit and Manga. Through these stories employees, customers and visitors can enjoy, understand and relate to the organisation’s purpose. It’s all about winning minds.”

Nailia Tasseel