There’s no denying stories are powerful. But what is it that gives them this power? Why do good stories have such an impact? And how can you harness this when it comes to telling your business story?

Gareth Dimelow from Inside Stories is back with Katie Flamman to delve deeper into storytelling for business and how a great story can affect your brain chemistry.

Key Takeaways

  • Our brains respond to stories through mirroring, dopamine release, and resonance.
  • Meaningful stories are rooted in familiarity or address recognisable situations.
  • Emotions play a crucial role in creating an emotional connection with the audience.
  • Trust cannot be achieved through shortcuts; it requires authentic emotional connection.
  • Finding your unique perspective as a business owner creates something special.

Guest Information

Find out more about Inside Stories agency here:

Insidestories.guru

Tel: 07516 823195

Want to work with Gareth? Get in touch with him or his business partner, Terry.

Gareth Dimelow: gareth@insidestories.guru

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gareth-dimelow-b05296a/

Terry Bower – terry@insidestories.guru

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/terrybower-insidestories

The Transcript:

Katie Flamman 00:00

Welcome to Storytelling For Business, the podcast that helps you build better customer relationships by telling stories your clients want to hear. I’m Katie Flamman. I’m a voiceover artist specialising in corporate storytelling. I’ve worked with clients from local councils to the Council of Europe, helping them to share brand stories and business developments. But why is business storytelling important? What makes a great story, and how can storytelling create leads for businesses and build lasting client relationships? In this series, I want to find out the answers, and I’ll be letting you in on any secrets I uncover. In today’s episode, I’m welcoming back storytelling expert Gareth Dimelow from Inside Stories Agency. If you missed part one of Gareth’s interview, you might want to skip back to the last episode, but if you are ready for more now, this episode is about the power of stories and the brain chemistry they produce. So does Gareth have a secret recipe for the perfect story? Let’s find out.

Gareth Dimelow 01:05

Well, the secret sauce is really simple, as I see it. I think everyone gets hung up on trying to write a system for a story. So a lot of people think a story begins with once upon a time or it ends with happily ever after, and I think that’s the wrong thing. And some people say, “Well, yeah, but you can’t define what a story is because a story could be six words long or it could be 6,000 pages long.” Both of those things are true. So for me, what I wanted to do was work out, start with the science, which is weird because I have absolutely no scientific side to me at all. But I did look at the science, and there are three key things that happen to the brain when it experiences a story. So again, start with the audience. What happens to the human brain when it hears a story?

Gareth Dimelow 01:51

There’s a mirroring component where the brain recognises some commonality, shared experience. There’s the dopamine that gets released when we experience any kind of emotionally charged mument. There’s another trigger that happens where we find that there’s some sort of resonance, some authenticity, some connection that, again, facilitates recall. That’s fine, that’s the science. And there’s a diagram that talks about how these different parts of the brain react when they hear a story. I looked at that, and I thought, firstly, I need something easier to remember than that. And so what I came up with is a simple mnemonic with three M’s, which is for something to be a story, it has to be meaningful, memorable, and moving. So for it to be meaningful, exactly like I just said, it’s got to feel like it’s rooted in some sort of familiar context, or there’s an authenticity to it, or it’s addressing a recognisable situation or scenario, or environment that we as the listener or the reader, or the audience go, I know what that is, if that feels relevant to me.

Gareth Dimelow 03:06

Then it’s memorable for it to be a story, there’s got to be a point. There’s got to be a hook. And it’s a great exercise. I find watching movies is saying, “Okay,” here are the things that happened in the movie, but what was the movie about? And the memorable thing is the bit that stays with you. You might not remember every scene, every piece of dialogue, every character, but what you remember was the hook. You remember the thing that it was about. And then finally, it’s moving. Obviously, it’s easy in literature and movies, and TV shows to trigger some kind of an emotional response because that’s an easy win. If you’re making a horror movie, you want to scare people, or if you’re making a comedy, you want to make people laugh. If you’re writing a drama, you generally want to try and make people cry, but we all recognise that those stories give us an emotional catharsis, whatever emotion it is.

Gareth Dimelow 04:02

And so if we just transpose this over onto business storytelling for a second, how often do people think about the emotions that they want to inspire? Of course they don’t. What they’re doing is, they’re prioritising, how long have we been in business? What are our annual billings? What are our plans for growth? How many clients have we got? What they’re not doing is going, what do I want to make people feel? And more importantly, what do I already make people feel? When they work with me, what is the overriding emotional response that they have to it? So again, back to the summary, three things for it to be a story. It’s meaningful, memorable, and moving. And that’s how I tend to differentiate between the things that are just presented into the world as content and the things that are actually qualifying as a story.

Katie Flamman 04:51

It’s so interesting, Gareth, because I do a lot of corporate narration, and sometimes I get scripts that give me goosebumps. They’re amazing. And sometimes I get scripts that, basically, don’t resonate. And my job is to create something that is memorable, moving, meaningful, all the things that you’ve talked about. But quite often, it doesn’t land, or sometimes it doesn’t land. And I always ask the client, “What do you want your audience to feel so that I can get the tone right?” So what do you want them to do when they’re finished watching your video? And that’s not just click on the link. It’s what feelings are they left with? It’s really about connection and resonance, and that emotional connection. I don’t think people really think about that in their business marketing, not on purpose anyway or not consciously.

Gareth Dimelow 05:46

No, I think there’s part of it is unconscious, and I think part of it is actually, it’s more permission-based. That horrible old cliche it’s not personal, it’s just business. I think it’s garbage. Everything is personal, every business, it doesn’t matter what you do, what you make, what you manufacture, what you sell, what services you offer, people are going to buy you because there’s people buying people. And so-

Katie Flamman 06:09

Know like and trust.

Gareth Dimelow 06:11

Yeah, exactly. And trust. There you go. And funnily enough, trust is one of the first ones. When I ask people about what they want their audiences to feel, trust is one of the first things they say. And it’s actually one of the most problematic because you can’t just click to trust, you have to earn the trust. And so if you see trust as the goal, you’ve got to work back and go, “What emotions do we work towards so that trust is the outcome?” Because trust is too easy a shortcut, we want people to trust us because it avoids the hard work of going, “Well, how do we go about engendering that trust?” And so I think I’m fascinated by this about how much of this is maybe a very English thing that we sort of don’t like talking about our emotions. As a culture, I think we’ve been quite slow on the uptake. We talked earlier about the importance of therapy. I think, as a culture, we’re not so good at delving deep and unlocking those sometimes painful personal truths.

Gareth Dimelow 07:19

So we don’t like to give ourselves permission to go too deep. And I think, particularly where emotions concerned, we want… let’s just get… put the first answer down, that’s fine. Can we move along, please?

Katie Flamman 07:31

Yep.

Gareth Dimelow 07:31

I’m a little bit uncomfortable. And consequently, when you then get to the why, how, what, that Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, I think that manifests there as well, that when you want to articulate a purpose, people like… I don’t really want to delve too deeply. So here’s the first thought, I’ll put that down. Is that okay? Can we move on? Are we good? Good to go? Yeah. Because they don’t want to spend time picking that apart or putting their heart and soul on the plate for the world to see. And I think if you’re going to invest your business with everything of yourself, you have to be willing to dig a little deeper. You have to be willing to-

Katie Flamman 08:10

People want to know what you-

Gareth Dimelow 08:11

Yes.

Katie Flamman 08:11

… stand for. Don’t they?

Gareth Dimelow 08:12

Of course.

Katie Flamman 08:13

They don’t want to know necessarily what you do, or they do need to know what you do, but they want to know who you are and what you stand for, what you believe in because that’s the way you are going to connect with them or find that commensurability so that you might be a good fit.

Gareth Dimelow 08:28

I think one of the interesting challenges is, I don’t know if you ever watched Madman, it was the-

Katie Flamman 08:34

Yes, we did. Yeah.

Gareth Dimelow 08:35

… one of my favourite TV shows, but one of the interesting things about that era is, it was really about the birth of advertising as an industry. And one of the things that drove the advertising industry in the early ’60s was this notion of the unique selling point. And in those days, every product that came to market was essentially the first of its kind because there just wasn’t any competition. So the unique selling point was quite easy to pin down because you were the only one.

Katie Flamman 09:06

Everything was new.

Gareth Dimelow 09:07

Yes, everything was new. We’re the first detergent that works at a low temperature. We’re the first dishwashing liquid that cuts through grease. And I am using these very mundane examples because advertising as an industry was all aimed at housework. So it was all housework chores that tended to be targeted, or cigarettes. We don’t talk about those. And the interesting thing about that was that the USP, 60 years on, is still held as sacrosanct for people who are looking to market, people who are looking to reach consumers.

Katie Flamman 09:42

And of course, in reality, there are hundreds of other people who do what you do.

Gareth Dimelow 09:47

Yes, exactly. So that idea of uniqueness, there is nothing fundamentally unique about your product or service. However, I believe that if you find the thing that makes you tick, your unique perspective, your point of view on it, your human emotional purpose, and you can find a way of reconciling that with the thing that your business does, you have something unique by the simple virtue that there’s only one you. And you’re afraid of-

Katie Flamman 10:18

Going back to the chat you talked about before, or the human that you talked about before who had all these different careers and ended up being a teacher, they’re the sum of those parts, aren’t they?

Gareth Dimelow 10:26

Yes.

Katie Flamman 10:27

And all of those different experiences have come to this one point. We’re all different, as you say. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I got excited.

Gareth Dimelow 10:33:

No, no, no, that’s absolutely right. And that’s the thing is, what we find is that… I’ll give you an example. When Terry and I are at networking events and we meet people, we’ll often encounter them. And of course, the first thing we say is, “What’s your story? What are you about? Tell us about your business,” because we’re genuinely curious. And they’ll say, “Oh, we’re an accountancy firm, but we’re different. We’re a firm of lawyers, but we are different.” And we always say, “How?” “Well, we really care about our clients.” I’m like, “Okay, I think everyone would say that next.” “We offer great value for money.” I’m like, again, no one wouldn’t say that. So when you say we are different, you’ve got to do the work. You’ve got to spend the time looking inward, giving yourself permission to deep dive and figure out what that’s, because the answer is in there, there is an answer for everything.

Gareth Dimelow 11:36

It doesn’t matter how mundane or ordinary you might think your business is, it isn’t. There’s a story in there. And the story, like I said earlier, it’s not your biography, it’s not your CV. It’s the story that your CV tells. So for instance, if you keep bouncing around a certain industry but never settling on any one thing, it’s because there’s something in that industry that isn’t satisfying your soul. So the fact that you’ve now set up your own business means that you are trying to answer that unanswerable question of, “Why is none of the other stuff working for me?” That’s the bit that you’ve got to spend some time working on and uncovering, and you need someone who’s going to ask the question. I came up with an aphorism that I use all the time now, which is, “You can’t tickle yourself.” And it’s true, you can’t.

Gareth Dimelow 12:33

And so it doesn’t matter how evolved your thinking is about what you do, you need somebody who doesn’t know the ins and outs of it to ask the right questions to say, “I feel like you’re holding back or you sort of glossed over this point.” But I think there’s something back to the deerstalker and the magnifying glass of the detective or the, “Tell me about how that makes you feel of the therapist.” Those components are how we get to the next level of detail and we uncover something. And another thing that we see a lot is rather than the sort of dry professional services who almost… and the number of times the people have actually apologised, they’ve said, “Oh, I’m going to bore you, and we’re just a law firm.” I’m like, “Don’t say that because that’s setting up an expectation that I’m going to be bored.”

Gareth Dimelow 13:23

I won’t be bored until you say something boring. But if you’ve got something interesting to talk about, I’m all ears. But the other thing that happens where, again, I think people have read Simon Sinek or they’ve watched that TED Talk, and they’ve got to have a why. They’ve got to have a purpose. And so I’ll hear them talk about why they set up their business, and they go, “Oh, I set up my business because I want better life for my kids.” And I just want to say to them, “That’s great. That’s a personal motivation.” I don’t want to take that away. And I think everyone would go, “Good for you, good for your family.” But that’s not a why for your business, because the why for your business has to resonate with your audience.

Gareth Dimelow 14:05

They’ve got to say, “Ah, yeah, I get that. That connects with me.” What I think an audience would say, if you say, “I set up this business because I want to have a better life for my kids,” it means, so what you’re saying is you want to earn more money and do less work. “Well, bully for you. I’d like that too, but I’m busy with my priorities over here.” So you’ve got to find a way of connecting the journey that you are on with somebody else’s journey. You’ve got to give them an opportunity to find some kind of simpatico with what you are about.

Katie Flamman 14:40

So I was going to say, can you give me three tips that people can use? But you’ve done quite a lot of that there already. Find a way to connect with your audience and kind of keep them front of mind, and look at your why in a way that’s not what everybody else would say.

Gareth Dimelow 14:58

Yes. I think that’s definitely the second point, is obviously finding your why. That’s not new information. Everybody’s out there talking about why and purpose-driven marketing, and purpose-driven storytelling, and all of that, that’s become the vernacular now. But I do think that you should hold yourself to a higher standard when articulating a why and ask yourself, firstly, is this true to me? Yes. Does it mean something to somebody else? Because that’s the difficult bit. You’ve got to find that. And I think the third thing, since you said, what are the three tips that you would give people? I think the third one is, “Don’t assume that your story is something that you etch in a piece of stone that you then learn verbatim.” I think the reason we love stories is we each get to put our own personal spin on them when we tell them.

Katie Flamman 15:53

Oh, yes.

Gareth Dimelow 15:53

We are not just the transmitter of the story. We become a co-conspirator. We become a co-creator of the story because we take on a story and we add our own personal flavour to it. I was talking to my mum yesterday about spirituality and the supernatural, and she’s generally quite a cynical person like I am, but I always remember when I was a kid, she told us a story about a guardian angel. The first time she told us, I broke out in goosebumps. It was so chilling and creepy. She told… my mum’s a great storyteller. I think that’s where I’d like to think I get it from. And I tell that story now. I haven’t co-opted it. I don’t pretend that it’s my story. I tell people it’s my mum’s story, and I remember a lot of the key details that made the story work, but I tell it my way. I leave out some of the details that mum shared because she knew that we had a different understanding of context.

Katie Flamman 16:56

Because she knew her audience was you.

Gareth Dimelow 16:57

Exactly. And there are bits that I dwell on a little bit more for people who don’t know my mum. So as a perfect example of the story being something that when you share a story with someone, you’re effectively gifting them with another story that can become theirs. Because we never really own the story, we just pass it on to other people. But I think I often talk about, for many people, their first experience of storytelling is parent or caregiver and child. It’s bedtime story. And we know kids love stories because, to them, we don’t have to put the lights off for another 15 minutes, so I’ll choose the longest story I can. And the kids just like the fact that they’ve got their parents’ undivided attention. But the parents love the story too, and they don’t love the story because they want to hear about the two rabbits that love you to the moon and back.

Gareth Dimelow 17:49

They don’t want to hear that for the 400th time. What they love is that they get to shape how the story is delivered. They can personalise elements of it. They can fast-forward through the bits that are a little bit tedious or repetitive. As they get more confident with the story, they can look away from the page and actually tell it from here rather than here. They can do character voices. They could change the ending if they want to, because that’s the power of story. As the giver of the story, we get to choose how much we want to personalise it. And I think, coming back to one of the fundamental laws of marketing, which is the most effective marketing of all is word of mouth. You’ve got to put stories out into the world that other people will want to share.

Gareth Dimelow 18:37

They don’t want to share your pitch, they don’t want to share the text that’s on the homepage of your website. But if you tell them a story about what you do and it inspires them and it grabs them on an emotional level, they’ll go out there and they’ll tell that story to 10 of the people because they get to co-own it. It gets to be partly their story too, because it relates to an experience that they’ve had.

Katie Flamman 19:02

It’s magic, isn’t it? It’s magic, and it’s-

Gareth Dimelow 19:04

There really is.

Katie Flamman 19:06

It’s very simple, but it’s super complicated at the same time.

Gareth Dimelow 19:10

And I think that’s the thing. The story is the first kind of information that we encounter as human beings. We encounter them before we really have a conceptualization of the world around us, and it’s how we start to piece together the little bits of information that we’re given. So on that instinctive, biological, neurological level, story is the simplest thing in the world because it’s the most intuitive to us. But I think because of that, it’s that much harder to step back and go, “Right, I need to work out what a story is in the context of the business that I’m building or the brand that I’m sharing with the world.” So it is, it’s inordinately complicated at the same time.

Katie Flamman 19:54

Wonderful. Well, obviously, we’ll put all of your company details in the show notes if people decide that they can’t take this on themselves and they need your help, which would be amazing. And just to finish, what is your story look like, Gareth, for the next five years?

Gareth Dimelow 20:10

It’s a really interesting question, and it’s one that we get a lot, again, because we spend a lot of time around incubator hubs and startup spaces where there are lots of entrepreneurs and small businesses, and investors. Half the people we meet, the first question they ask us is, “What are your plans for scaling up?” And I think that’s predicated on an idea that we created this business to grow, sell, and get out.

Katie Flamman 20:37

Retire to the Caribbean. Yeah.

Gareth Dimelow 20:38

Exactly. I mean, I’d love to retire to the Caribbean, but that’s why I keep buying a lotto ticket. I think, for me, as I said earlier, when I left full-time employment, what I wanted to do was spend time doing the thing I love. And so this business isn’t something that we’re building with a view to sell. It’s something that we’re building because it’s the thing we love doing. I can’t think of another job I’ve had in my life where, when I share the outputs of what I’ve created, I could actually burst into tears, and I have done on several occasions. That means I’m doing something that means something important to me. So for the next five years, I mean, of course, we want to grow, but the growth is predicated on me being in all of the sessions because it’s a process that I’ve developed. It’s so intrinsically linked to the kind of person I am and the weird blend of creative and strategic skillsets that I’ve built up over the last 25 years.

Gareth Dimelow 21:45

So it’s very hard to imagine creating a sort of clone army of people who do what I do because, actually, it’s a fairly rare skillset. I’m not going to say it’s unique, but it’s a rare skillset. And I imagine if there are other people out there with that skillset, they’re doing what I’m doing, so they’re not going to want to be a resource that we deploy. So consequently, our growth is always going to be limited by availability. But I know that one of the things that Terry and I are looking at doing that does give us an opportunity to scale is to work with more than one client at once. So what we’re looking at doing fully enough at the moment is, in partnership with our friends at County Business Clubs, looking at creating a sort of storytelling retreat. So a sort of two and a half day programme where we can have multiple clients at once, so there’s a sort of networking support system-

Katie Flamman 22:42

Networking and workshop-

Gareth Dimelow 22:46

… in place.

Katie Flamman 22:46

… all at once.

Gareth Dimelow 22:46

Yeah, everyone working on their own individual stories. So we walk them through our kind of six-stage workshop process, but it becomes a more collaborative, nurturing space where they all get to create their own stories in sync with one another, and it’s all based on the idea that you take people away from the day-to-day distractions and pressures that get in the way of having a clear focus. So that’s definitely one of the things that I think we’d like to grow more over the next few years.

Katie Flamman 23:15

Well, that sounds brilliant, and if you can do what you do for more people, then that’s got to be a winning formula for you but also for them.

Gareth Dimelow 23:25

Exactly.

Katie Flamman 23:26

I’ve absolutely loved speaking to you, Gareth. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your really unique standpoint on this. And I’m sure that any businesses listening will have taken away masses of tips. And as I said, all of Gareth’s contact details will be in the show notes if you want to reach out. So, Gareth Dimelow from Inside Stories, thank you very much.

Gareth Dimelow 23:46

Thanks so much, Katie.

Katie Flamman 23:48

Wow, I don’t know about you, but my brain was ready to explode after that interview. Gareth shared so much amazing information, didn’t he? So let’s recap. Here are my key takeaways. One, for something to be a story, it has to be meaningful, memorable, and moving. Two, your unique selling point, your USP, isn’t what you do, it’s who you are. Three, if you want your audience to trust your brand, you have to work backwards and figure out what emotions you need them to feel first in order to get to trust eventually. Four, a story is an amazing marketing tool if other people remember it and want to share it. Five, stories release brain-altering chemicals. That’s how powerful this stuff can be. When human beings hear a story which resonates with them or which they recognise, that feeling of having shared the experience triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine allows you to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. See, you can use storytelling science to strengthen your call to action. How good is that? In our next episode, we go from science to a little bit of magic.

Jules Sander 25:15

It is about capturing their imagination early on so that they will stay with you. I don’t really buy it that people don’t have long attention spans, but it is up to us to make them interested and make something that’s not boring.

Katie Flamman 25:27

Corporate filmmaker Jules Sander talks about making time fly and creating memorable calls to action which viewers can’t resist. If you can’t resist that one, just keep listening. I’m so good to you. Episode three is ready right now, it’s called Inspiration Storytelling on Screen. Once again, huge thanks to Gareth Dimelow from Inside Stories. Please get in touch with him if you want to join one of their workshops or work one-to-one on your business storytelling. All the contact details are in the show notes, and mine are too. I’m Katie Flamman, and this is Storytelling For Business. Until next time, goodbye.