What Greta Thunberg teaches us about storytelling

Written by Chris Hewitt

31 January 2020


What a difference a year makes. As world leaders and influencers took to the stage last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Greta Thunberg used the momentum built since last year’s gathering of the world’s political, business and financial elite to reinforce her story and cut through the noise.

In the marketing and communications industry, we’re bombarded with the term ‘influencer’. But for me Greta is a true influencer – she’s working to bring about change with her story.

Greta’s lessons in storytelling

Decide what matters to you. Passion and authenticity determine whether a story flies or flops.

Choose your words carefully. Greta’s talks are never lengthy, but her words are very carefully selected. Less is often more. Write it down, read it out loud and keep crossing it out and rewriting it. Jargon definitely doesn’t have a place here. Succinct, powerful and engaging language will make your story stick.

Be authentic. Greta breaks down barriers by sharing her personal experience – show people why your story should matter to them – where do you fit into their lives?

Write as you speak. Her presentations are full of powerful words, but also plenty of pauses. She leaves just the right amount of space for reflection and an opportunity for us to feel compelled to act.

Aim your words at the right audience. Greta’s talks are aimed at other passionate, proactive people. She shows where her story fits into their lives and compels them to take action.

Make your story relevant to your audience’s lives. Instead of telling us that soon the polar bears will have no home, Greta pointed out in her TED talk in 2018, that in 2103 she will be 100 years old. This makes us think about what her life will look like then – what will be left of the world if we continue to do nothing.

Appeal to the heart, not to the mind. The emotive stories she tells remind us what needs to be done and leave us feeling inspired.

So, remember, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, how old you are or what experience you have. If you have a great story and you know how to tell it, you can move mountains.

Learn how to tell your story

Change how customers see your business by building a compelling and authentic brand story with the Berkeley Storytelling Academy.