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.
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.