The Power of Storytelling Through Audio

Why audio storytelling changes us.

The power of ancient storytelling traditions remains a prominent influence in today’s society. The podcast world is filled with hundreds of shows that revolve around storytelling, like The Moth, The Story Collider, and even your favorite guilty-pleasure true crime show

In these shows, the storyteller brings you into a part of their world that you would otherwise be unaware of. When the story is finished, you leave a bit differently than when you started listening. 

Stories are everywhere, in every industry and field, waiting to be told. But why do we need them?

The purpose of storytelling.

Stories are used to shift ideologies, inform the uninformed, and even push an eager audience towards new ideas. The storyteller has the power to sway an audience. The #1 goal of storytelling is to connect一connect people to people, people to new ideas, people to new perspectives and beliefs. 

You have a target audience you want to connect with. If you want to connect with your audience, you have to tell a story. And if you want to further build a trusting relationship that keeps them coming back, consider audio storytelling.

People believe that to tell stories through audio, you have to create the next This American Life. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Any podcast introduced by any organization can tell a story. Let’s explore why you should.

Why you need to tell a story.

Important information needs to be memorable. 

You have the information you need to share, but you face some big challenges. 

We are inundated with information. Often, this information comes in the form of data, facts, or statistics through written articles, TikTok videos, or tweets. These temporarily grab our curiosity, but we likely won’t remember it hours, days, or weeks later. 

To make matters even more difficult, statistics show that marketers and communications strategists only have eight seconds to grab someone’s interest. This means you have to aggressively compete to not only attract an audience to your information but to also help them absorb it. 

Your information may be necessary to create change. Perhaps you want to educate your audience or persuade them to take action. Information in the form of data, lists, or facts is not memorable. 

Storytelling through podcasting is your most powerful communications tool.

Stories hook us. They’re memorable because they’re relatable. The storyteller may come from a different background or lived experience than us, but their story helps us understand new concepts more powerfully than stand-alone facts. 

Receiving a newsletter with statistics on increasing rates of food insecurity in my city may be alarming, but listening to a family’s story about what day-to-day food insecurity looks like is much more influential. It increases my understanding. It puts a face on the number. Even if I’ve never shared their experience, I can identify with the storyteller on how it feels like to be concerned and stressed. 

We may not remember every detail of a story, but we’ll remember how it made us feel. A story makes the information come alive. It causes us to pause, and reconsider beliefs we previously held. 

As your audience connects with the storyteller on a more personal and emotional level, they’re more likely to take action and share with others what they experienced while listening.

Here’s the proof.

Storytelling’s ability to powerfully influence people isn’t a wild claim. 

Uri Hasson, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University, along with his research team, found that as we’re listening to someone tell a story, our brain waves actually synchronize with the storyteller’s brain waves. Our brains literally work to see the world through the storyteller’s perspective, opening us up to new ways of thought, new information that could potentially shift our actions. 

In addition, our brain works to increase emotional empathy while we listen to a story. How? Every good story contains some kind of tension. As we listen to this tension, the brain releases oxytocin. Oxytocin has been suggested to increase emotional empathy and helps the listener identify with both the story and storyteller. Stories help us identify and connect with others. We’re driven to be more empathetic, helping us learn and remember information.

Storytelling drives an intimate connection between the storyteller and the audience. To further solidify this relationship, podcasting is your platform. 

Audio is the most effective way of making a story memorable.

This relationship between the storyteller and the audience is not new. It actually originated with radio.  People had their favorite shows, they loved certain radio host personalities, identified with their stories, and faithfully committed to listening to them every day, even coming to think of these hosts as their friends. Now, this same kind of behavior has transitioned to the hosts and storytellers of podcasting. 

Audio storytelling is intimate. When it comes to podcasting, listeners often feel a sense of closeness to the host because they are listening to a real, human voice. Audio allows listeners to feel like they’re in the same room as the storyteller. They hear the emotion, they resonate with their voice. 

As people listen to stories on a podcast, they create movies in their minds, building their own images of how the story unfolds. This cements it more into their memory and increases the connection. 

Finally, stories told through audio are also powerful because they are convenient. People can listen anywhere, any time, while doing other things. This is powerful, why? Because as a storyteller lets the listener into their world, the listener is partaking in their own personal world, perhaps gardening, walking, or driving. For a moment, your two worlds collide. It’s in this space that you can build that trusting connection to your audience.

Anyone can use audio to tell a story. Everyone should tell a story.

Audio storytelling is not just for the creatives at NPR. Every industry from science to education, from healthcare to finance, from hospitality to law, has a story to tell. Storytelling can change your industry, help you advocate more effectively, and educate others on why your mission is important. 

You don’t have to create the next big audio documentary. You can if you want, but you can also incorporate storytelling into other podcast formats like interview talk shows, audio magazines, and narratives. 

Think outside the box and ponder these questions:

  • What are the stories in your industry?
  • How can these stories impact your field? 
  • How can your organization/industry tell these stories?

It’s time to teach, guide, and encourage your industry through audio storytelling.

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