One of the most common hang-ups businesses have in crafting their story (besides never having enough time, right?) is the term story. It’s easy to think telling your story is all about you. But you’re telling a story for a business purpose to help people connect with and remember you. You’re not trying to reach the best-seller list. While there are some elements that are the same in telling a business story and a good piece of fiction, to be successful in your storytelling and have it meet your communication and business goals, you need to keep the following things in mind:
A Connected Theme
Let’s face it. There are a lot of stories you could tell. Which one is the right one for your business and how does it advance your goals? With business storytelling, you’re giving your audience something that they’ll remember and hopefully repeat to others. So, you don’t want to tell them just any story. Think about a theme or initiative that you want to advance. It should be something you want to be known as like the “business that gives back” or “the best place to work in Alameda.” The label isn’t your next tagline. It’s simply a concept you want to be known for as part of your branding; it’s a theme you want to reinforce.
Just as your business plan guides decisions of what you spend your time and money on, your business story theme will help you decide which narratives to advance. There are lots of stories to tell. But you want the ones that will help reinforce your brand. You do that by selecting a theme.
You want your story to focus on the brand you’re creating. It must reinforce what people have come to believe about you (unless you’re trying to become something completely different).
When others experience your story you want them to have two reactions:
- “I didn’t know that.” The surprise will make the story memorable, but you still want them to say…
- “But that sounds like them” If you tell them something that is completely different than what they imagine about you, they’ll experience a moment of disconnect. That moment when they’re thinking about that will take away from your story and they’ll likely forget your message.
A Good Conflict
This is one of those storytelling components that works for fiction and business. However, since you’re telling your story with a business goal in mind, you want to make sure your conflict serves your business purposes. For instance, while there may be a very exciting conflict going on between you and your landlord, that’s not the type of story that will lead to more business. A good conflict in a business story addresses adversity. You can talk about how you overcame your own adversity or tackle the story of the adversity facing your customers and how you helped them overcome it.
While conflict is a necessary part of any story because it causes listeners or readers to wonder what will happen next, it isn’t exciting if there’s no context. Think about the Arthurian legend where a young boy removes a sword from a stone. If we only tell you the climax of the story—the young boy walked up, wrapped his hands around the sword, and yanked—you likely will think “What’s so special about that?”. However, if we provide the context that all the strongest men in eight kingdoms had tried and all had failed, one even lost his life in the attempt, you’d likely be concerned for that little boy. On the other side, after he pulled out the sword, you would be even more impressed because the stage had been set to include his desire and the danger. You need to remind people what it was like before the conflict. That way they feel what you were feeling. They’ll connect with you.
A Satisfying Resolution
Just as you need a good setup or stage, you also need a resolution. This not only satisfies human curiosity but helps solidify in their minds that by overcoming that crisis or conflict, you can help them with theirs. A satisfying ending to the conflict is essential. However, just like a Marvel movie, your ending should hint that it’s only really the beginning. You want people to feel like you’re just getting started with lots of amazing things yet to come.