Storytelling is a basic, some would say primitive, tool for connecting with an audience. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell outlined a more or less universal pattern for storytelling, a fundamental structure he called “the hero’s journey.”
The three main elements are:
- The separation of the hero from the “normal” world.
- The hero realizing his true character through a series of trials and tribulations.
- The hero returning to the “real world” in triumph and with resolution.
Campbell’s structure is not universal
Of course, not every story follows this pattern, and it is not necessary that every narrative be forced into this mold. More contemporary theories explore different structures, and there is no right or wrong way to tell a story—only more or less effective.
In the realm of face-to-face marketing, storytelling has experienced a resurgence. One element of Campbell’s process that continues to be relevant is getting the market on your (and your brand’s) side through a narrative process. Allow your listeners to identify with the hero. Facilitate an emotional response that brings them to not only understand what you are saying but also to endorse it. Storytelling and inviting your market into your world is powerful when done as part of the engagement process.
Storytelling for the healthcare exhibit marketer
How can you plan to use storytelling in your healthcare exhibit?
1. Think about children’s picture books and how few words are used with the images. A progression of images (compliant, of course) tells a powerful tale and is particularly useful when planning for global visitors. These images need not be static, of course, and your partners can suggest ways of portraying them using appropriate technology.
2. Rather than thinking in a features/benefits construct, think in terms of the individual experiencing your product and the conflict that precedes the experience:
- The doctor who is confronted with a puzzling therapeutic area and finds a new solution.
- The patient who learns of an illness and embarks on a journey that results in a dialog with the healthcare professionals who help cure or manage that condition.
3. When you are planning a disease state exhibit, put the story completely in context by using data, digital technology, and experiences that simulate the therapeutic area. Raw data is usually boring; data in context is compelling.
4. Use case studies. Getting your attendees involved in finding a solution by means of a variety of media translates into a high level of engagement–and an extended visit to your exhibit.
5. Technology that helps story telling is everywhere and can allow a one-to-one or a one-to-many presentation for those staffing your exhibit. Make it a point to ask your partners about the best fit for your goals and objectives—and your budget.
Story telling is characterized by an emotional as well as an intellectual approach
What is critical in all this is that you take an emotional as well as an intellectual approach. The lifestyle graphics that are traditionally a tool in the healthcare marketer’s tool box have played this role in the past, but there are many more possibilities beyond static images. Story telling should be dynamic—and that dynamism should characterize your exhibit and influence prescribing and/or purchasing behavior.