The Importance of Storytelling in Business
What if we told you that storytelling is a tool that can help you achieve your communication goals and help your business develop and thrive? In business, this is an idea worth exploring because it will set you apart, not only among your competitors, but to your customers. Also, using this communication tool in office meetings can carry the same impact.
Check out Janis Forman’s book Storytelling in Business for a different
perspective on business books.
Cut the Noise
Have you asked yourself why customers should listen to the messages you want to share with them? You might say because it’s valuable and somehow relevant to them. Ok, fair. But with many other things like text messages, advertisements, emails, and news alerts competing for readers' attention, how will your message repel other noises around them?
According to this CBS News article, we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s, to as many as 5,000 a day today. Companies are constantly brainstorming creative and strategic ways to ensure that customers don’t ignore their messages, sometimes by advertising multiple messages a day, which can have the opposite effect.
Appealing to our emotions has always been a common strategy that companies use to captivate us, such as donating money to charity with your purchase of an exclusive item. Sure, this can be effective, but it’s not fulfilling the maximum potential bond that your business can have with your customers.
Try storytelling. Whatever your point may be, the humanity in the story you share has the power to “sell” your ideas or products, and is a reflection of your business. For example, if you’re sharing an anecdote about a customer whose life was improved because of your service or product, that clearly shows that your business is effective. But it also shows that you are empathetic because you recognize the difference you made, and sharing it with others.
Check out this link to learn what people think makes a great story.
Steps to Creating a Powerful Business Story
1. Know your audience
When you know exactly who you're writing to, you avoid general, broad messages that miss the mark. Create audience personas for your readers. Give them a name, a background, hobbies and interests, and assign demographic and psychographic characteristics to them. Think about their attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and knowledge about your subject. How does this person want to be reached? Write your story to a person, not a concept, and reach them where they already are.
2. Be authentic and empathetic
Your goal is to interact and engage with your audience, not lecture to them. Stories have a humanistic component to them, such as characters and conflict, that we can all relate to. By telling a story that sells something and is also relatable, your audience can’t help but to place themselves in it.
Yet, businesspeople most commonly rely on charts, graphs, tables and overcrammed PowerPoints to present their messages. But not everyone can, or has the desire to, interpret and relate to statistics. Because of this over-reliance on evidence to speak for itself, there seems to be an anti-story bias that pervades the business world.
3. Use vivid descriptions and specific details
Stories that lack creativity and imagination are just words. Avoid using vague, general language like some, a lot, things, people, many, soon ... the list goes on. Be specific. Allow your reader the opportunity to form a picture in their minds. How many? Who? What time? What things, exactly? Analyze your word choice carefully. Make sure your phrasing is clear and the meaning of your words is not lost in useless phrases.
It also helps to link your words to experiences and emotions. This has a profound effect, and it’s the very key needed to inform, persuade and inspire them. Your choice of language and details, pacing, etc., largely influences how the voice is interpreted.
4. Use relevant media
"A picture is worth a thousand words." You've heard that more times than you can count. Choose appropriate images, audio links, videos, or GIFs to reinforce key themes in your story. It will help to stick in everyone’s imagination long after the story has ended.
Sharing is caring. Remember your audience persona? When you know how your reader wants to be communicated with and where they already are, it's easy to implement a content marketing strategy. Facebook is a great medium to share content, but don't disregard the other social networks - or paid media. Effective content marketing is a multi-tiered approach and shouldn't rely on one or two outlets to spread the message.
Shakespeare once said, “Words must match deeds.” A successful story should be genuine and fluent and the theme behind it should coincide somehow with your business. By these terms, aim for truth, and with that you will achieve a credible, realistic and tangible story that engages the emotion and intellect of your audience.
Integrating Your Masterpiece: Presenting Your Messages
When it comes to integrating storytelling into your business, how do you present your data and messages so people will care?
All stories should answer the The Writer’s 5 Ws, but it takes more than that to “sell” your idea. Getting started on your story can seem overwhelming, so start by answering the questions below. If you find that any of your answers overlap with other answers, you’re on to a good beginning. The first two questions are intended to help you draw explicit connections between the content and the needs and interests of the company.
What is the story's purpose?
Who is involved?
Why tell this story now?
Timeliness can make your story even more compelling. Identify the relevance.
Who should tell it?
Your reason should contribute to the effectiveness of the story.
Who should be included in it?
Determine what your characters will highlight in the story
A business with credibility will successfully inform, persuade, and inspire its audience by storytelling. It’s a powerful function in companies, especially today with the advantage of the Internet. Remember that your stories should show, not tell. At Seventh Gear Communications, we’re here to help you. With us by your side, your story counts.