Brexit, it’s the stories wot won it.

There’s been a lot of water under Tower Bridge since 2016 but this was definitely one of my favourite surreal moments from that summer.  Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage took to the waters of the River Thames on rival flotillas to hurl abuse at each other as the Brexit referendum vote loomed.  Take a moment to enjoy it once again.

I remember thinking that politics had finally jumped the shark.  It seemed incomprehensible – couldn’t we even try and have a rational debate?  Shark jumping seems to have become more common in politics over the past four years so maybe this doesn’t look as surreal as it did back then.  One thing I have learned though, is that this behaviour is far from incomprehensible.

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and author of ‘The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Disagree about Politics and Religion’.  Written in 2012, it’s never been more relevant today.  He uses the analogy of the human mind as an elephant with a rider sitting on top.  The rider represents our rational system (the planning and analytical side of our brains) whilst the elephant represents our emotional system (our instinctive emotional responses).

The truth is that, for all of us, it’s the elephant, our emotional response, that leads the way.  It turns out it has a bit of a weight advantage.  The rider is adept at building a rational case to support the elephant’s instinctive decision-making.  So angry and incoherent trumpeting from rival flotillas on the Thames actually makes a whole lot of sense in the face of a divisive and contested issue.

So how do you persuade people to choose one option over another?  Bob’s giving it a good go here by giving the Leave flotilla some information.  Do you think that many changed sides that day?  Me neither.   Because battering people with facts and statistics doesn’t deliver influence.  It’s not the rational rider Bob should have been trying to persuade, it’s the instinctive emotional elephant.  Here’s Arron Banks, the founder of the Leave.EU campaign on the subject.

“The Remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact.  It just doesn’t work.  You have got to connect with people emotionally”

So how do you do that?  How do you persuade people to change their views, to go your way?  Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has the answer.

If you want to influence people, you’ve got to tell them a story.  The Leave campaign did a better job of that.  Stories of national identity, hope and positive progress.  There were some darker stories too…  Even their slogan ‘Take Back Control’ adhered to a basic story progression of fundamental change.

At duckrabbit we make short, high-impact documentary storytelling films and we teach people.  Since COVID hit, we’ve taken that teaching online.

Our course ‘Using Story to Influence’ is designed for creatives, marketing teams and, most recently, for politicians.

It covers the structure and building blocks of the very particular type of storytelling that triggers the neurochemistry to send the elephant in the direction you want it to go.

It’s fiercely practical with no waffle.  We draw on all of our documentary storytelling experience and the relevant research to give our clients a clear and simple model and workflow to analyse, design and create stories that have the power to influence.  It’s delivered online in two hour blocks over three intensive sessions.

There’s more detail to be found here.  And here’s what people have to say about our training.

“Honestly, best training ever. Changed the way I look at my work.”Agata Byczewska. Press Officer, European People’s Party Group

“I just sold my first multimedia feature to the BBC. It just shows what a good decision I made by training with duckrabbit. I love what they’re about and would love to capture even a tiny bit of that spirit in my own work.” Ciara Leeming, Freelance journalist.

“I left the duckrabbit course full of enthusiasm and confidence. It must have worked because only my second attempt made the front page of the Guardian website.” Emma Wigley, Interactive Media Officer, Christian Aid

“Yesterday was outstanding. The format was perfect for us and covered everything we wanted. Fantastic trainers.” Barney Brown, Head of Digital Comms, University of Cambridge

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