The importance of an effective narrative

“That’s a vital point – we should include that in the narrative …”

What is a good narrative? In political communications, a ‘narrative’ is a particular argument or stance taken towards a subject. But in other fields, such as corporate communications, a narrative is, more simply, the story.

A good narrative offers a way to align everyone in a group behind one coherent and meaningful story. It succinctly expresses the context or background of a time, event, or entity; actions taken; and then impact or results. This helps to create clarity and consistency in understanding and communications. A narrative typically takes the form of one page of A4, and can be cut from or added to depending on need.

So why are narratives so effective? It’s because story structures are easily understood by our brains – and hearts. Human beings have spent tens of thousands of years relaying information from one person to the next, generation to generation, in the form of stories which contain emotional links as well as rational justifications.

As with so many technical PR industry terms, there is no single term used when translating ‘narrative’ into Arabic. Sometimes is translated as ‘ruwaya’, and other times as ‘qussa’. This is perhaps one of the reasons why in Qatar and many parts of the MENA region strong narratives are often missing from PR and communications.

Tips for writing a strong narrative:

Keep it simple. A narrative is designed to explain your issue in a few words, without technical language or jargon. It should demonstrate relevance, opportunity and risk, and suggest a course of action.

Make it memorable. People have busy lives and do not live what you live. You must present your argument in a form that can be repeated easily and credibly by your supporters to others.

Use insight, not overstatement. The success of the narrative approach lies in its objective usefulness as wisdom to be passed on. You’ll be more persuasive by using widely recognisable, undeniable truth linked to your argument. You are recruiting others to support your cause, so your argument must provide justification for that support.

Use narratives to strengthen and sharpen the way you’re understood by others.


Patrick Forbes

CEO, Forbes Associates