We live in an era of high-quality content. For example, there’s this blog you’re reading right now. I mean, can you even imagine existing in a world where you don’t have access to this article of unbridled genius? I can’t.
But forget about blogs for a second. Wait! Please keep reading this particular blog, but as you do that, think about all of the other kinds of content out there—namely, the thousands of hours of entertainment in the form of television, movies, books, and podcasts that we have at our fingertips at a moment’s notice.
Consider all of the content that enriches your life on a daily basis. The Netflix series, Marvel movies, fictional thrillers, and even true-crime podcasts—all of those thoughtfully crafted creations that keep you on the edge of your seat, speculating what might happen next as you skirt your adult responsibilities. What does all of that content—some award-winning prestige and some straight-up guilty pleasures—have in common?
The simple answer: Storytelling.
There’s a reason why we prefer to binge watch our favorite television show or sit in a theater for three-plus hours watching a comic book adaptation instead of listening to a CEO rattle off facts and data in a tedious presentation. It’s because narrative stories are far more engaging than corporate speeches. And if your company’s story consists of a lifeless collection of facts, you’re not doing enough to bolster your marketing efforts and inspire potential customers to engage with your brand.
Effective Storytelling For Business
A really good story engages your brain in a way that reaches beyond the surface level. It goes deep and makes you care about details on an emotional level, which helps you actually remember what you’ve learned instead of just hearing words without absorbing the message. When the story of your company is just the facts with no narrative arc or emotive elements or suspense of any kind, it renders you inconsequential—an immediately forgettable footnote in the constant din of online content.
And this isn’t merely anecdotal evidence wrapped in well-meaning prose. There’s some very real science that links storytelling to the retention of information and making your message stick. A study by Harvard Business Review on the neurobiology of storytelling showed that character-driven stories spark the synthesis of a neurochemical called oxytocin, which enhances our empathetic feelings and understanding. When you absorb information as an empath, at a business seminar, for example, it bolsters your ability to recall the information you’ve learned because you care about it on an emotional level and not merely because your boss wants you to regurgitate the company line.
“When you want to motivate, persuade, or be remembered, start with a story of human struggle and eventual triumph,” writes Paul J. Zak, the author of the study and the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University. “It will capture people’s hearts—by first attracting their brains.”
The Craft Of Storytelling
Read that previous quote again. What stands out? For me, it’s “human struggle” and “eventual triumph.” These are the cornerstones of our most memorable stories, fueling everything we relate to and aspire to in scripted works.
Each and every one of us is a collection of stories, arranged in unique ways based entirely on our individual perspective. Yet, what makes our stories so compelling is that, no matter how unique our individual anecdotes are, they’re all universal to the shared human experience—no matter if we frame our lives as dramatic tearjerkers or slapstick comedies.
I can sense you rolling your eyes at that last passage while thinking, “I run a business. What on earth does some hippie-dippie concept like ‘the shared human experience’ have to do with my company’s profit margins?”
In a word: People. Without people, you’re nothing. Your company was built by people and it sustains because of people. As such, your company’s story is a narrative about the human beings who made it and who continue to make it, a living, breathing, viable entity. From what your company does, to what it stands for, and what makes it successful—these are biographical elements borne from the beliefs and ideals of actual people, and this is precisely what potential customers latch onto when making their way through the marketplace.
How To Tell Your Company’s Story
Your company’s story can be like a bingeable TV show that you just have to talk about with everyone you know. Now, your company is clearly not a work of fiction, but as we’ve established, true stories can be just as compelling when told effectively. So, what are the key steps to telling a story that’s worth reading?
Be Truthful & Authentic
Your organization’s story will only resonate if it is 100 percent authentic. Though exceptions exist, the majority of people can smell a phony a mile away. Once you’re caught misrepresenting your company, it will be damn-near impossible to regain the public’s trust.
Identify Your Audience
Pinpointing exactly who it is you’re trying to speak to with your story will reveal the nature of your message. Remember that you are writing directly to a specific segment of the population. You should have an idea of what they’re passionate about and how your organization can fulfill their needs.
Examine Your Company
To tell your organization’s story, you’ll need to discover what it is that separates you from the pack. Remember earlier in this article when we talked about people? This is where your people are crucial. How did your company get to where it is today and who are the driving forces behind your success? What is their story? What can you tell customers about your history and philosophy? Now would be a great time to gather team members for a brainstorming session.
Craft Your Story
Now for the difficult part—the actual writing. The American novelist Philip Roth said “writing isn’t hard work, it’s a nightmare.” Say that quote to any writer you know and most of them will either laugh, laugh nervously or tear-up and ask to be excused while they compose themselves. If you don’t have a strong writer on your staff, hire a professional. You need to capture the attention of readers immediately—and if there’s one thing you cannot fake, it’s the ability to write compelling copy.
Plan Multiple Stories
The story you tell about your company’s formation should not be the only story you tell. You need to create a narrative that you can keep adding to for as long as your company is in business. Your organization’s story doesn’t have to be told all at once and it should never be repetitive—break it down into episodic pieces if necessary that can all be brought together to tell a larger story.
The sheer amount of content available for consumption is never going to decrease. As technology moves forward—and we somehow keep inventing new streaming services—capturing the attention of the public will only get more difficult and more crucial. Be sure that your story is always in the queue.
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