If you want people to remember something, tell them a story.

The story of Noah's Ark

A few months back I wrote about how telling stories can influence people’s feelings.

In fact, writers of all stripes have been using stories to tap into people’s emotions for centuries.

Well… it turns out that as well as evoking strong emotions, stories are also a powerful tool to help us remember things.

A few days ago I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show podcast. His guest was Stephen Dubner, one of the authors of Freakonomics.

In response to a question about the power of stories, Stephen came up with some interesting numbers.

Which book, he asked, is the most famous and widely read globally? Probably the bible. Anyway, the bible is certainly the most widely read book in the United States.

However, he said, only 17% of Americans can recite the Ten Commandments. A much higher proportion can name all the characters in the Brady Bunch TV show.

It’s not that Americans have terrible memories, or that they’re not devout enough. Or that they feel the Ten Commandments are unimportant.

The problem is that lists are by their very nature boring and hard to remember.

However, find someone who is not a devout Christian, but who sat in class and listened to bible stories while they were at school several decades ago, and you see a very different picture.

Everyone remembers bible stories.

Adam and Eve. David and Goliath. Jonah and the Whale. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Noah’s Ark. The Nativity.

In fact, people remember all kinds of stories.

You don’t have to be a classical scholar to have heard of Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus and other heroes of Greek Mythology.

Nor do you have to be a student of Shakespeare to know the stories of Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet.

The thing is, stories have a way or burrowing into our memories and staying there.

If you find all this a little self-evident, go back through your own copywriting or content writing work and look for 1) Lists and 2) Stories.

Quite a few lists, right? And yes, a series of indented bullet points counts as a list. A post or article with a headline that has a numeral at the beginning is a list. Like… 10 Ways to rock your readers with lists!

If you’re just after clicks on ads, lists are OK. Nobody cares if readers remember those posts or not.

But if you are trying to connect with your audience.

If you want them to remember you.

If you want them to remember your message, products and services.

Well… lists won’t serve you very well.

Ask Moses. He delivered the most famous list of all time, and people still can’t remember it.

But people can remember 10 ways in which Wile E. Coyote tried to kill the Road Runner. Why? Because that list was embedded in a series of stories.

Next time you’re writing copy or content and find yourself writing a list, pause and think for a moment.

First, keep in mind that nobody will remember your list.

Second, ask yourself if there is a way to embed that list in a story.

Make it part of a story and you’ll end up creating something a lot more powerful and memorable.

NOTE: If you’d like to use the power of storytelling to increase your skills as a web content writer, online copywriter or social media writer, take my course… Selling With Stories…

 

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