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Tell Me a Story, Spin me a Tale

Yvonne-head-squareby Yvonne DiVita

You'll get no argument from me about the power of a good story. I lived in never-never land growing up. The world was all around me but I only saw the parts that I wanted to see. I constructed worlds that existed in my mind, populated with happy people, lots of pets, and homes that were warm and inviting. The pets were a focus. As a small child, we didn't have pets and I wanted a dog so very badly! 

Today, we're learning the power of a story to pull in customers and clients. Rather than loud, annoying ads, the brands I buy tell me a story...about the product. In each TV spot today, we are treated to a 30 - 60 second story about the people we see, and how the product being advertised affects them, good or bad. Bad in the sense that you should buy it to prevent the 'bad'. 

Social Times tells us, "The brain processes images 60 times faster than text, and 92 percent of consumers want brands to create stories around ads. Because of this, marketers should be delivering linear content with clear narratives and using images to tell their stories."

They're getting into the 'science' of storytelling. I submit that it doesn't hurt to read up on how the science of storytelling can influence us, but if you're a brand, or a startup, or someone struggling to bring in new customers, you can rely on the action of storytelling. You can share your services by talking about the reason you do what you do. You can show clients and customers that you care, by giving them insight into who you are, via stories you have to share.

There is no doubt that images play a role in storytelling. It's not like writing a 300 page novel. How important did you feel as a child when you graduated from picture books to novels; great tomes of imagery, with no pictures? Did you secretly cheer, as I did? Did it make you feel grown up? Not that you dismissed picture books entirely. After all, back in the day, we all read comic books regularly and I know folks today are fond of graphic novels, just another word for comic book. 

Today, we have a powerful tool that helps us share our stories, spin our tales, bring the viewer into a world that is not part of the chair or sofa they're sitting in; a world that many times has to compete with the moving pictures on the TV in front of them, or with whatever is happening around them. That tool is called the Internet and the opportunities to tell your tale with moving pictures, still images, text, and even sound, has never been greater. The Internet offers YOU control of what your client or customer will see... what she will learn... what she will believe, about you.

Business professionals sometimes stumble, when it comes to telling stories. They think they don't know how to tell stories. The invitation to do so often sends folks into a panic. "What will I say?" they think. "What SHOULD I say?" they worry. The words get tangled up in their brains like old Christmas tree lights left in the attic too long. (how do they do that? you put them away so nicely and when you get them out the next year, what a mess!) 

Many people think storytelling is a craft best left to the likes of Stephen King or Nora Lofts or Shakespeare. We fool ourselves into thinking a 'story' is a complicated tale that requires big words, detailed descriptions, sharp memory... when, the reality is quite different.

Yes, a story does have a beginning, a middle and an end. In cases like this, for business, it shouldn't be too long. I once had a friend who knew how to stretch his stories out for long, desperate minutes that seemed like hours, to those listening. Mid-way through, we'd look at him and say, "Howard, is this gonna be a LONG story?" And, he'd laugh good-naturedly and get to the point. 

MarkTwain
“I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.”

A story does need credibility. Storytellers are allowed to borrow from memories that may not be so sharp, as long as the truth is not stretched too far. In business, you can take a personal memory and craft a business story around it. It serves to show your customer that you're human, just like she is. Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors. He was a master at storytelling. 

A story needs to convey emotion. You will not keep my interest if you do not involve me in the story by pulling on my heartstrings, or tapping into my search for happiness, or touch upon my need for better health. Whatever it is that you 'sell', it must solve a problem for me and your story must not only show me that, it must make me 'feel' it.

Notice what I just said... your story must SHOW me. That's a talent that is not easy for everyone. As humans we tend to TELL people things. We tend to go into great detail that describes a situation; the table was red, it had four settings, each setting was a different color, with napkins made out of burlap. Nicely told. But, showing is different. "I touched the anicent wood with tentative fingers. How well I remember days gone by, meals of chicken and beef, steaming soups with carrots and potatoes, eaten at this hand-carved table, every evening. Why these strange settings today? I nudged a purple ceramic plate with my thumb. The grainy burlap napkins were insulting. Even the chairs were wrong. Would my feet dangle if I sat in one? I wondered. Would I be able to sneak treats to the dog, unseen?"

Showing puts you in the story. 

All of this takes practice. Some folks are able to weave a tale out of thin air. Some folks need to write things down the night before, and transcribe or share the next day, inserting carefully thought out details. Some people need to hire a storyteller.

Regardless of how you do it, if you cannot learn to tell a story in today's relationship building world of social, you risk ... being dismissed. The infographic below may help. From Christie Barakat, of Social Times.

  Science-of-storytelling

 

Comments

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Yvonne DiVita

@Kimberly, it's comical that anyone would complain about a blog post with mention of their product. The goal is to demonstrate the product in its 'native' environment, namely, the dog's home! Oh well. Some folks just don't get it.

@Susan, love that you said 'combination of art and science' because that's so true! I believe the art of storytelling is so important in the day to day world of everything we do, and the science is how you improve on the art. Well said!

Susan C. Willett

Stories engage, plain and simple. And once readers are engaged, you can offer them your message. Storytelling is one of those skills that is a combination of art and science, and when done well, is a beautiful thing. Great post!

Kimberly Gauthier

I recently had a brand tell me that they were disappointed in my review of their product, because I wrote too much about my dogs and the commenting were only talking about their dogs.

What the person missed was that I had included his product in our lives. People don't read my blog to read about his product - they can go to his site for that. They come to my blog to see how the product would work in a dog family.

My writing process is simple. The first draft is raw, me getting all my ideas out. Then I go and edit - removing what doesn't need to be there. I keep my readers in mind. They follow me, because they want to see how Rodrigo, Sydney, Scout and Zoey are doing. They want to learn something I learned. They want to feel like they're not alone in figuring out how to raise happy, healthy dogs.

So my personal rants have taken a back seat and have been replaced with insightful explanations of why I support or don't support something. If I must write a 1000+ word post, it's broken up A LOT with headers, "tweet this" blurbs, and images. And I've learned that themes are fantastic.

I'm sharing the story of my life with dogs. I can easily incorporate brands, causes, and more in that story. But it always has to be my story, because that's the one my readers have come to expect.

Plus it's so damn fun!

Yvonne DiVita

@Robbi, I think you made an important point - that facts can be part of your story, but to make them the only story doesn't work!

@Carol, thanks for the compliment! You tell great stories on your blog. I'm always eager to read more at Fidose of Reality.

Robbi

That is the reason romance novels resonate -- conflict, seemingly insurmountable odds, the h/h change and grow and then happily ever after. I try to do that with my blog posts... tell a story so the reader gets drawn in. No one really wants to read a "just the facts ma'am" post, they want to feel a connection even IF you have to give some clear cut facts it can still be wrapped into a well-crafted story.

Carol Bryant

Blogging is storytelling at its finest, if done properly. I love reading posts where I wonder what is next, the reveal is not all at once, and yet I appreciate the author slowing me down in a fast-paced world. I believe you are a damned fine storyteller, Yvonne. I always find myself engrossed in your prose.

Yvonne DiVita

Amy, you hit the nail on the head, as they say. "Stories that resonate have conflict and emotion followed by resolution."

Pawsome!

Amy Shojai, CABC

Some of my first published pet work were personal experience stories (from my vet tech work) that "framed" the nonfiction articles. Putting a furry face on a topic...a real live cat named Sugar who had diabetes...with the struggles, near death and then cure, puts the issue in context and allows readers to become vested in the story and cheer that poster-kitty, for example. Open by introducing the "problem" (and the pet, in this instance), transition to the nuts and bolts of info you wish to share, and then close with the "problem solution" for that poster pet. (hence...bookends). Stories that resonate have conflict and emotion followed by resolution.

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