Storytelling for Business

Hamsters

I’ve written about storytelling before. In one post, I wrote about the velocity of real time storytelling. In another, I wrote about the storyteller’s promise in presentations. In another, I wrote about at least one way that stories help your community. Stories also work well for business.

Storytelling for Business

Right off the bat, let’s accept that press releases aren’t stories (at least not necessarily). They’re just information formatted to be absorbed by a news organization. That’s okay. They’re not meant to be stories. Stories come out of a narrative that usually involves experiences, actions, and a change of state. They take place in a setting, have characters, and often have a theme about them.

Advertising knows this. They do it often. This piece by Levi’s really moved me. It worked perfectly as a story. And that story got me interested in buying more Levi’s products, because I saw myself as part of the story. I loved what they were talking about in the story, and I was moved.

So, how do YOU do this? And why would you?

What Stories Do For Us

Stories are how we learn best. We absorb numbers and facts and details, but we keep them all glued into our heads with stories. I was with AJ Leon (and Melissa and Tony) for their latest project. He brought up old blog posts of mine as part of his interview process. In each case, there was a story wrapped around the post, and a story to share with the idea he asked me about. Stories let us convey wisdom, and/or explain information in an entertaining way.

How To Tell a Story

I’m going to explore this in an interview with Jennifer Aaker, Andy Smith, and hopefully Oren Jacob for 501 Mission Place shortly, but I’ll tell you my simple view of it, before that experience.

How to tell a story:

  • Start with a character and a point of view. Harry Potter is the story of a young boy who feels he’s very different and very left out, discovering that he’s not where he was meant to be, and then it grows into this larger epic about defeating evil. Now, if you run an air conditioning installation company, you might not be able to talk about a secret school, owls, and a weird game, but you can start with a story about Samir, and why he came to work for the company, and what he loves most about the job.
  • Have a point to the story. Samir, the air conditioning installation person can give an interview, but just asking him questions and getting the answers isn’t a story. It’s an interview. The point might come out from the interview, or the point might be to gear the questions so that Samir tells the story of how Ace has the best service.
  • Make the story useful. If you’re hoping the story will help your business, make it useful. What if Samir showed us how regular six month maintenance on our air handling systems saved people thousands of dollars a year, and what if he showed us that it takes only 20 minutes start to finish? That’s useful.
  • End with a “next action.” This is a little different than stories, which like to stop at “the end.” In storytelling for business, you want your reader to take an action. Thus, the story should end with a sense of what the “reader” (who becomes a character of another kind) can do with what they learned in the story.

Different Media

Telling a story on YouTube is different than telling a story on Facebook is different than telling a story on Twitter is different than telling a story on a blog. It’s all different than an ebook, and a paper book, etc. The different types of media make the storytelling a different experience. Think of how you’d do an audio interview versus a video interview. Think of what comes from writing clear and useful prose versus having a video experience. See how it’s all different?

Be sure to pick the right medium for the job.

  • Audio is intimate.
  • Video is expressive and illustrative.
  • Text is faster to read than audio or video is to consume, easier to transfer, and simpler to produce.

Experiment

The best way to start learning about storytelling is to practice. Think up storylines. Look at the points I’ve made above and see which ones resonate with you. Think about how you could tell a story with the experience you want your buyers/clients/customers to have. What’s the story that you think will resonate with the people you need to reach?

And what did I leave out of this that you’d want to know about?

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