How can narrative meaning mean
Why narrative communication has a lasting impact
The word "narrative" has seldom been overused as it has been in the past few years. Every new trend word suddenly became a miniature narrative unit aka. Explained narrative. Often enough it had to serve as an explanation for why messages work - or not.
In principle, it is correct to regard the narrative as the basis for the persuasiveness of a message. However, the question of what a narrative should actually be, what power it has and what it means for communication is rarely answered. The bad news first: There is no single definition of the term narrative.
In the meantime it has become more of an empty phrase that has to be used for every kind of description that has been put into words. Originally, however, the term is an important element in political cultural research as well as - who would have guessed it - in the area of storytelling and dramaturgy. At its core, a narrative is a narrative unit, packaging for content, and possibly even a framework for a smaller story.
Narratives are much older than any communication trend or buzzword. They are not invented by communication professionals or scientists. They are much more likely to be almost as old as mankind. In order to open up the world and understand its complex peculiarities, people have been using storytelling for millennia. It is a kind of anthropological constant that people make knowledge comprehensible through narratives and also pass it on through narratives.
To date, no science has succeeded in locating a society in which storytelling in any form would not occur. So it seems to be a human need not just to list things factually, but to describe, classify, compare, to tell. Thus, narratives also and above all serve to reduce complexity. A narrative tightens time, it arranges events that may have happened at the same time, one after the other. It gives memories of events and experiences just as structure as imaginations from the imagination. As a consequence, narrativity is a means of grasping reality, a tool of the individual to make himself and other things understandable, which at first glance are complicated and poorly structured .
Narratives are now the way stories are told. In this case, stories do not just mean novels and other fictions, but rather almost all forms of knowledge transfer that involve any form of communication - from everyday narratives to founding myths to detailed legal texts - all of them are shaped by narratives. Narratives are their narrative pattern, their structure, which give the content its meaning. The order in which one describes an incident, for example, has an influence on its interpretation and its perceived meaningfulness.
For example, if the Bible did not begin with God, the following chapters would make no sense to the reader. Narratives are thus the dramaturgy inherent in every narrative, no matter how small: the structure of a constitution, the history of a product, the culture of remembrance of entire societies. Narratives put individual elements into context and thus shape how people perceive and judge a fact. So they shape our perception of reality and ultimately also the world in which we live.
But what do narratives mean for communication?
The answer to this question is much less complex than the term itself: narratives help to break down complex messages. If you keep a special eye on the structure of your messages in your own communication with stakeholders, you not only use the opportunity to convey this content in an understandable way, but also have an influence on how your messages are interpreted and classified. Modern marketers and PR people then call this “storytelling” and by that mean nothing newer than the age-old packaging of facts in a framework.
So the next time you write a press release, a customer letter, a statement or the like, not only do you keep in mind who you want to reach with it, but also, how. Does the order of the information make sense? Does the content match her own history as a company? Can your message be interpreted differently than actually intended?
Remember that narratives solidify over time, and that adds meaning to terms. Due to established narrative patterns, we consider some terms such as freedom and security permanently as pairs of opposites. Therefore, especially when using meaningful terms such as "nation" or "freedom", always keep in mind which stories are already hidden behind these terms and thus your actual message can change. With the knowledge of the power of narrative patterns in the back of your mind, you can make your messages more exciting, catchy and clearer.
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