If you have a child (or have ever been one!) you know how mesmerized they are with stories. I remember begging my dad for a story, and he was great at entertaining my brother and me, while making them up as he went along.
A hunger for stories doesn’t end when we grow up. Just look at all the media we consume through TV, movies, comic books, literature, radio, magazines, the Web and beyond.
Newspaper reporters call their articles “stories,” and indeed, the best ones are.
We all still love a great story. If you can master storytelling, you can influence people to buy your products and services, build your reputation as a leader and inspire loyalty among employees.
Think of Garrison Keillor and his popular “A Prairie Home Companion” or Paul Harvey and “The Rest of the Story.” They both use stories to capture your attention, and then they promote their sponsors with commercials sprinkled through the programs.
Why are they so successful? Because people feel connected to them on an emotional level. They become our friends, and we trust them. We grant them authority, whether they are selling mattresses or stereo speakers.
But you’re not a Garrison Keillor or a Paul Harvey? No worries. You can find, write and tell your own stories, and generate your own following. Why should you bother? Because stories convey meaning and value in a way that advertising and marketing copy can’t. They engage us. They move us. They make us fans.
Good stories are what motivate journalists to write about you. They can be used on Web sites or promotional literature in the form of testimonials to show how your product has solved a problem for customers.
Good, honest stories in your newsletter or even at the company picnic make your employees glad they work for you and inspire them to work hard to achieve a common goal. The most successful politicians use storytelling to build rapport, and the most successful business leaders do, too.
What exactly makes a tale a story? Consider these lines from one of the most beloved hymns of all time:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.
The reason we love this song – beyond the simple but beautiful melody – is because it tells a complete story within those four short lines. Your story doesn’t have to be long, “shaggy dog” story. Let’s take a closer look at the various aspects:
It is intensely personal and self-revealing.
It connects with us on an emotional level.
It tells us how life used to be (the problem), what happened (the crisis or conflict that causes a change), and how it is now (the resolution). Novelists call this the story “arc”; it hails back to classic literature and Aristotle’s tragic fall from grace.
So how can you use stories to help your business?
(Next: Where to Find Stories in Your Business That Will Get You Media Attention)