The Importance of Representation in Storytelling for Business Leaders (And How to Avoid Being Annoying)

As business leaders, it's important to remember that we are part of a larger community. This means that the stories we tell, whether through advertising or branding, have the power to shape the way people think about and engage with our businesses. And in today's increasingly diverse and inclusive society, it's crucial that the stories we tell accurately represent the community we are a part of.

First of all, what is representation in storytelling?

It's about accurately depicting a range of people and experiences in the stories we tell. This means showcasing people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities. It also means depicting a range of experiences and perspectives, from the struggles and triumphs of everyday life to the unique challenges and opportunities that come with being a part of a particular community.

But why is representation in storytelling so important for business leaders? Well, for starters, it's the right thing to do. Imagine if every story you heard or read only featured straight, cisgender, able-bodied white men – it would be pretty boring and alienating, wouldn't it? By accurately representing the diversity of our communities, we can foster a sense of belonging and connection with our customers and show that we value and respect the people we do business with.

It's not just about being a decent human being.

Representation in storytelling can also have tangible benefits for your business. For example, it can help build trust and credibility. When people see themselves and their experiences reflected in the stories we tell, they are more likely to trust and engage with our businesses. This is because they feel seen and heard, which can foster a sense of belonging and connection. Representation can also help to break down stereotypes and dispel myths, which can improve the way people perceive our businesses and the products or services we offer.

Representation can also help us reach new audiences and expand our customer base. By accurately depicting a range of people and experiences, we can tap into new markets and connect with potential customers who may not have felt represented or understood by our previous storytelling efforts. This can help us grow our businesses and better serve the needs of a diverse community.

It’s important to recognize that representation isn’t just about the characters in your stories. It’s also about the people who are telling those stories. For example, if you’re telling stories about young people, you should make sure that you have young people on your team. If you’re telling stories about women, you should make sure that you have women on your team.

But here's the real kicker – representation in storytelling can drive innovation and creativity. When we challenge ourselves to think outside the box and accurately represent a wide range of people and experiences, we can open up new avenues for creativity and innovation. This can lead to fresh ideas, unique perspectives, and new ways of thinking that can set our businesses apart and help us stay competitive in today's market.

So how can we ensure that our storytelling efforts accurately represent the communities we are a part of?

Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Diversify your team. The people who create and share your stories should reflect the diversity of the communities you are a part of. This means hiring and promoting people from a range of backgrounds and experiences, and giving them the support and resources they need to succeed.
  2. Go on a listening journey. Take the time to listen to and learn from the people you are trying to reach. This can help you better understand their experiences, needs, and perspectives, and create stories that resonate with them.
  3. Be authentic and transparent. Avoid stereotypes, cliches, and other lazy storytelling techniques that can alienate your audience. Instead, strive for authenticity and transparency in your storytelling efforts, and be willing to admit when you don't have all the answers.

By doing this, you’re showing that you value diversity and that you’re committed to creating an inclusive environment. And that’s something that customers will respond to.

So there you have it, folks – representation in storytelling is important for business leaders in order to show up as part of a community, and not be annoying.

Written By
Inder Nirwan
Co-Owner & Filmmaker