Once upon a time - what Easter can teach us about the art of storytelling

  Kids have a lot of Easter wisdom

Whether or not you're a Christian who believes in the resurrection, Easter weekend is a powerful reminder of the potency of story telling and how a narrative can endure throughout the ages.

My two boys Toby and Ben (aged 4 and 3) are in reception class and nursery and this week for the first time told me all about how Jesus died and returned from the dead to save us. Ben was particularly intrigued by the fact Jesus 'stayed in a cave until he came back'.

This type of story telling is ultimately what we do as PR practitioners - we share stories about brands and create ambassadors who spread the 'good news' too.

Quality content management draws heavily on these skills, especially when the objective is to secure third party endorsement from customers and their personal networks to grow brand awareness and increase sales.

Here are three ways we can all improve our story telling abilities:

1) The truth matters, as does how you tell it. Modern day stories need to have more than a grain of truth to them, not to mention something at the heart that makes people believe, if you want them to stand the test of time.

We seek authenticity and look for evidence that something is true. Being honest about a product or service helps to build trust and create advocates who spread the brand love far and wide.

Think about creating a little magic. Fairy tales are a great example of how we first learnt about good and evil - how can old and new formats be animated and made more human? Ultimately we all want to hear tales about how life can be better and which resonate with our personal situations.

2) A picture paints a thousand words. Use imagery to bring your story to life. From Egyptian hieroglyphics to street art today, the story of life has long been passed down from generation to generation in picture format.

Art offers a simple way to cross cultures and geographical boundaries and can also be a clever way to emphasise brand heritage. Similarly, video and music are visual story telling tools that are often under-used. They can and should be embraced.

3) The power of three. One of the challenges to story telling is how to keep things simple enough for people to understand and to avoid Chinese whispers distorting the message. Ben's response proves that clarity and reinforcement is an important part of a story as it is shared.

Way back in 1885, Thomas Smith wrote a guide on Successful Advertising that was based on research around message retention. According to the guide (which is still used today), until we've seen or heard a message three times, it doesn't penetrate.

Another school of thought is that people consume messages better when there are no more than three to absorb at any given time.

Focusing your writing provides key points for others to retain and pass on more easily. Tony Blair used this technique successfully with his 'Education, Education, Education' speech and grouping into threes has actually long been a device used by Christianity. The 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' and three wise men with their 'gold, frankincense and myrrh' being just two examples.

We've all our own ways of telling our stories and favourite examples of brands that do it well. Why not share yours here - it would be interesting to hear them.