The power of story telling
“Do you document the bad times?”
This was the question that somebody recently put to me at a #SaaS digital marketing event I attended. I wasn’t too sure what she meant at the time, but on speaking more, I realised she was talking about storytelling. When I founded my first company in 2004, I was full of naive enthusiasm, documenting every little detail. However once the reality kicked in, clients dried up and money ran out, the enthusiasm for documenting my worklife dissipated.
As business people, we don’t often get time to look back and reflect on our journey. However I recently observed an interesting phenomenon. When I meet people and tell them how Visibly came to be, I see them buying into the product far more emotionally than when I talk features and benefits. They see it less as a software and more as a living breathing entity. There is no doubt that I am emotionally involved in the business, I have put everything into it. I see the blood and sweat on every pixel. I remember being told by investors and advisors, ‘early on, only founders can tell the story and sell the vision.’ It raises the notion, if founders can learn to document their failures, can they build a more emotional brand through ongoing story telling? More and more brands are attempting to evoke an emotional response through storytelling. John Lewis’s Xmas adverts friendly monsters and lost scarves by Nationwide being great examples.
What makes storytelling so powerful?
Stories make our brains simulate the narrative, we live stories, we don’t just watch and listen to them as idle bystanders. That’s why stories have a transformative power, they enable us to see the world in a different way, through the eyes of someone else. Stories take us on a journey, they have easily relatable characters, and they stir emotion, making them memorable. In a world where we are being inundated by communications, stories break through the noise by reminding us that we are, at the end of the day all human. For brands this can be incredibly powerful, as long as they manage to give themselves a believable role within that story.
How can we all use storytelling?
To start with with you need to create a structure. One that you can remember and is consistent with your own experience, in other words don’t fake it!
- Who is telling the story?
- Why is the story being told?
- When and where is the story taking place?
- Who are in the story?
- What are the people trying to achieve?
- Whats challenges are faced?
- What are the outcomes?
It’s really important that you take your reader on a journey, this means giving them insights into what the problem was before you set out on your journey, what happened in between, and how you came out the other side. It’s also a very good idea to include other people or brands in your journey, not just from an authenticity perspective, but also because it increases virality of your story. People like to be part of others stories, its an ego trip, so they are more likely to share with their own network.
Story telling is a brilliant way to bring your brand to life. Once you find the right story, and the best way to tell it, one that resonates with your audience, you can include it in every area of your brand communications. Recruitment job descriptions, your website, your presentations, your blogs etc.. And repetition, repetition, repetition is the key, once people hear the same story enough times from multiple sources, it becomes folklore.