Forging Connections through Storytelling

Jan 14

Over our holiday break, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel for ten days as a gift from Taglit-Birthright Israel. History, culture, religion, and nature intertwined to mold the perfect taglit (discovery, in Hebrew) of a newfound home away from home. We began our journey as a group of 40 Americans, and were joined by eight Israelis for the mifgash (encounter) portion of our trip. The word “encounter” does not do this experience justice, as our time together manifested in some of the most impactful memories from those ten days.

Graves in Mount Herzl CemeteryOne of the most moving experiences of our time with the Israelis was when we visited Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery. Our first two stops in the cemetery were the grave of Theodore Herzl and the Resting Place of Great Leaders of the Nation, the area reserved for Israel’s presidents, prime ministers, and other dignitaries. Though I knew of the great importance of the individuals buried there in those places, I admittedly felt a strange disconnect between the significance I could intellectualize and the level of emotion I was feeling. I reconciled that this was likely because I am not a huge history buff, and because the extent of my Jewish education stopped shortly after my bat mitzvah.

From there, we moved on to the portion of Mount Herzl dedicated to the Israel Defense Forces, where all soldiers are buried side by side regardless of rank. I thought about the dichotomy of beauty and sadness-one that was evident as we moved from one section to the next. My eye was constantly drawn to the ages marked on the graves…most in their early twenties.

We file into a row of graves and paused.  Amir, one of the Israeli soldiers on our trip, unfolded a piece of paper and waited for us to quiet down. He tells us the story of his friend, Oz Tzemach, whose grave we stood in front of. We learn about Oz’s selfless personality, passion for learning, and love of sports. We learn about his determination to serve in the combat field, recruitment to the tank unit, and how he was killed at the age of 20 while helping others.

Stone on a Grave in Mount Herzl CemeteryJean Luc Godard, a famous film director once said, “Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” This quote epitomized the punch in the gut that I felt and unabashed stream of tears that rolled down my face while hearing about the Oz’s life and the lives of others, taken too soon. From this story came a newfound level of emotional connection between myself, Mount Herzl, and my Israeli peers.

Achieving behavior change or attitude shifts often requires cozying up dry hard facts with stories that touch the inner core of those we are trying to reach. The ability to intertwine this yin and yang of information into a compelling and effective story is an art form. An art form that is essential to our industry.

How do we make the leap from a face and name to a moving and memorable individual whose story strikes a nerve and evokes action with our audience? How do we transform background noise to information you cannot turn away from? Regardless of the method and end goal, it is essential to ask these questions at the forefront of strategy development. Without story supplementing our work, we miss out on key social and neurological connections that help our message hit home. Harrison Monarth writes, “Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 at 6:01 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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