I’ve become more interested in the story surrounding Covid-19 than the disease itself. At the highest level there seem to be two competing narratives.
1. The risks surrounding Covid-19 are basically a scam, and we can now open the economy.
2. Any relaxation of lockdown conditions will lead to death in the streets – a real life zombie apocalypse.
You can see the battle lines etched into social media. You may see more of one narrative than the other – social media tends to be an echo chamber of your own opinions. But these are high stakes narratives, with powerful interests behind them.
Those who control the story write the history books.
In reality there has to be a middle way. But as all ad copywriters know, middle way policies and moderate discussion do not generate great click through rates. When click through rate is your primary objective, you need the most sensationalist headlines imaginable.
Storytelling throughout society is fractal – with one story nested inside another. At the highest level we have broad narratives about society, lifestyle, culture, disease, governance and so on. Higher level stories you can observe but can’t directly influence. Covid sits at this level.
Nested within this is the story of you, your company, your customers. At the same level are other people’s stories – not every story you ever tell has to be about you. Which to most people is a relief.
Nested within this are day to day goings on. The gritty reality of daily life. Things you’ve been up to in lockdown. Challenges you’ve faced. Everything down to what you had for breakfast this morning. (Not all stories are meant to be shared with the world!)
Each level informs the other – and you can draw on stories at any level. Writing about the high level narratives gets people’s attention because it joins a conversation already going on in their head.
More granular stories about day-to-day goings on deepen somebody’s attention, because people see their challenges reflected in yours. We’re all more similar than we are different. It’s counter-intuitive that the most specific, most personal stories have the widest appeal.
The rule of thumb above may be helpful. Comment on high level narratives to people who know you the least. Find a conversation that is already going on in their head. Then share personal stories with the people who know you the most.