The power of narrative and role of storytelling in business
The Fast Company Impact Council, an invitation-only group of corporate leaders, entrepreneurial founders, and other leaders from across industries, gathered on June 30 to share their insights. Members split into small groups, moderated by Fast Company editors, and shared their perspectives on how they are managing and innovating amid a trio of crises: the global pandemic, the economic slowdown, and calls for social justice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
In this roundtable discussion, led by senior editor Amy Farley, top executives talked about how companies build narratives that can resonate with consumers and with employees, and how the role of authentic storytelling and honest communication will be a key tenet of business in the decades to come. Participants in this session, in no particular order, were the executive director of MIT Media Lab Deb Roy, Esri CMO Marianna Kantor, Integral Ad Science CEO Lisa Utzschneider, Nextdoor’s head of marketing Maryam Banikarim, McKinsey partner lead on media and tech teams Jonathan Dunn, and cofounder and chief strategy officer of Good Money Andrew Masanto.
Deb Roy: We’re getting good at casting shadows and having machines that can make out contours or shapes of narratives at different scales, and then putting those two together and understanding (and predicting in some cases) how particular audience segments may respond to different forms of narratives, and different choices—all the way down to specific words and phrases that are chosen, all the way up to the emotional contours of an entire video sequences.
One example is leveraging found data. We’ve been doing a lot of work with Twitter, both the fire hose of hundreds of millions of tweets per day and also the network structure, which lets us understand how people are connected. We’ve actually invested a