The Art of Business Storytelling- Create and Tell Compelling Brand Stories
“The most picturesque Saturday evening, I sat writing on my bureau, and something peculiar happened. I was drawn to my desk- my legs felt numb, my chair creaked as it moved forward. It was like an invisible force pulling me close. Something was crawling on my screen. My eyes widened with amusement and I guess my eyebrows were one with my hairline. By this time my hands started trembling too. There it was…”
You feel it too don’t you? Didn’t it feel like you were a silent spectator in the room? Plus there is that thirst to know what was on the monitor screen. Well, elements like these make good stories. Now you know the romance between an avid reader and a novel.
Stories are a creative spectacle and it is a sheer art to tell convincing stories. They instantly whip up your imagination, tickle your senses and masterfully persuade the reader or the listener. That answers why our childhood was full of fables and stories.
But, storytelling isn’t just a vehicle to drive desired children behaviours. It is also superb to steer marketing campaigns to success. The best video marketing content is based on the principles of storytelling.
An encapsulating story is what sets brands apart, builds customers, drives and persuades people through their buying journey and establishes a strong business foundation. But how to use storytelling for business? Are there certain techniques through which brands can tell compelling tales? Allow this article to answer all your queries and furnish you with some handy tips to tell a story. With this weapon in your arsenal, it will become a cakewalk to fabricate riveting stories for your audience in no time.
What is Storytelling?
Storytelling is an art. This art is an ancient expressive medium, evolved over time, to convey emotions, pass on narratives and is a potent form of expression.
It would interest you to know that before the inception of writing, history was preserved in words. Then came writing and alongside technology; stories found a sanctuary in stones, evolved to podcasts and finally kindle. Generation to generation learned about its ancestors in the form of narrative that was stories. Hence, they are inseparable from our cultural heritage.
Today, storytelling is a skill, a career choice, a tool and mostly a tool for businesses. It has different implications for business but it definitely utilizes some universal principles.
Why Do We Love Stories?
There are a myriad of reasons to use stories. Sometimes it is the characters, the storyline, the concept or merely the representation that does the trick. They easily see, entertain, and educate. But mostly we love to listen and tell stories because:
they are universal: each culture is a product of the stories and tales passed down from generation to generation. It is in these stories that we find a place for ourselves and also establish common grounds to relate to others. Therefore, all good stories necessarily introduce popular emotions of happiness, fear, sadness, anxiety, etc. to maximize their reach.
They are relatable: since storytelling is a culturally diverse art, it makes us easier to relate to others. Listening or reading stories gives a feeling of community existence. Reading narratives about the problems others face or their encounters make it relatable and much simpler to convey emotions. For this reason, the real stories or case studies engage more. They are a rich source to learn, force the reader to think and impact the memory.
They educate: stories that we heard in our childhood always ended with a moral lesson. This was an attempt to shape children psychology when they are in the sensorimotor and preoperational stage of cognitive development as per Jean Paiget.
But as we grow older, there are vast genres available, which allows one to choose whether to learn through a fictive or a factual narrative. But the selling point of a good story is to educate and entertain, the reader or listener. Abstract concepts become more simplified, and complex ideas are broken down into more understandable parts.
They stick: the details of a good story remain glued in memory forever. And the key behind making a good story is an appeal to emotions and presentation. For instance, the graphical representation in children’s storybooks has evolved from mere pictures to interactive content.
They inspire and motivate: storytelling is an art that motivates and inspires. They tap into popular emotion and give the reader a feeling of belongingness. A powerful narrative, be it a tragedy, scandal, humour, fiction, or romance is influential to induce positivity, inspiration and motivation.
But with so many stories to tell how will you create the best story for business?
What Makes a Good Story?
A creative art like storytelling has a lot of elements that drives it. But essentially it is a concoction of three chief components- character, plot and resolution.
Characters: the characters (protagonist and antagonist in literary terms) are the key attraction of a good story. Characters are a link between the storyteller and the audience. It is only through these characters that the audience relates to the most. In business storytelling too, the journey of the character is extremely effective to drive action.
Plot: all the actions in a story are steered by the plot. This is also called a hook. A simple, easy-to-follow story, with an intriguing element of a conflict, is enough to take the reader or listener to the next line or stage. Businesses use this art to persuade people to buy. The centre of attraction here lies in how well the plot is able to glue the instances in an interesting and relatable manner. In literature, this is called exposition and is segmented into a proper beginning, middle and end.
Businesses use the plot and settings to introduce a problem or a conflict which is a key problem area.
Resolution: with a problem at hand, the reader eagerly anticipates a resolution. A good moral ending induces a feeling or emotion that you want the user to leave with. This is the part where businesses introduce a unique selling point (USP). By using the popular emotions of the target audience, addressing their burning problems and providing a solution is the closing deal.
But is there a different aspect of storytelling for business? Definitely yes. As genres evolve, there are different ways to tell a story. Storytelling techniques are different for horror, tragedy, expository writing, fiction, nonfiction genres. Similarly, the storytelling process for a business is different too.
Storytelling Process for Business
Crafting a story is a creative process and this art has to be shaped to fulfil a definite purpose. While the components of storytelling remain the same, the entire process of business storytelling has to be given a direction.
Before you get right to the creative process, here are some storytelling statistics to show that stories should be a part of your marketing or branding strategy.
Research by Headstream demonstrates that good stories drive conversion and ROI. According to it, if people like a brand story, it is 55% likely that they will buy the product, 44% will share and 15% will make a purchase.
As per Hubspot, visual storytelling has a greater impact on people as 80% of the audience remembers things they see.
While you are convinced to employ stories in your business marketing strategy, there are certain prerequisites you will need to know about to make your brand story outshine, while giving your organization a competitive edge.
1. Identify your audience: the primary function before delivering a product or service or conveying something simple as a story is to identify your audience. Knowledge of this target audience will make you recognize who you are creating a story for. This knowledge comes from an understanding of the target audience and is made more concrete by building buyer personas. When you know who will finally consume your story, it will become much easier to incorporate elements that facilitate the cause.
2. Determine your core message: your story will revolve around the message you want to put out there. There is always a reason why a brand or a business does what it does and storytelling is the creative process that moulds this “why” in an absorbable message. Ergo, before you begin, know ‘’what’’ message you want to transmit and the ‘’how’’ will come later.
3. Decide on a type of story: there is more than one type of story that can support an array of business purposes. Your core message for your brand remains the same, the message changes as per the audience taste and objective.
4. Choose your CTA: in business storytelling, the objective is to drive the reader to a call-to-action. The story should successfully induce an emotional appeal and finally guide the user to take an action. The CTA changes as per the objective and a clear CTA button support the cause.
5. Define the medium: after you have decided on the “what” of storytelling, it is time to jump to the “how”. At this stage, you define the medium of your story. Will it be an audio, video or a written story? Next, pick a medium where the story will be promoted and successfully reach the target audience.
Now, while you understand how to create the best stories for business, it is time to know a benchmark of impact. Here, the question arises as to why is storytelling central to business and why are they deemed effective?
Impact of Storytelling
Storytelling has emerged as a recent trend in marketing. Its utilisation and influence have helped brands emerge as leaders in their respective domains and drive mass sale. But why has business storytelling emerged prominently among all other modes of mass communications? The answer lies in its impact- the effect of storytelling on the human mind.
We are constantly being furnished with information at all times. The social media platforms, digital knowledge exchange programs, educational institutions, and trillions of advertisements we come across on a daily basis are information sources. But more interestingly, all of them are trying to communicate their unique story. But why is it that some of them stick and others don’t? Also, what is the impact a powerful story should aim for? The answer lies in the science of storytelling.
The subject of all stories (long or short) is daily experiences and encounters. Interestingly, gossip and stories make up 65% of all our conversations. This statistic forces us to think why do we love stories so much?
For this, let’s go knee-deep to know how the human brain perceives and reacts to stories.
How Your Brain Reacts to Stories
After numerous studies, it is safe to say that the brain, as smart it is, cannot make much distinction between reading about an experience and an actual encounter. This means that a gripping story affects the exact same areas of the brains which would be evoked with a real experience. Therefore, the probability to remember the facts of an actual experience is nearly the same when reading about it. For this reason, cognitive psychologist, Jereme Bruner, claims that we can retain facts up to 22 times when they are presented in a story format.
Princeton University neuroscientist and researcher Uri Hasson rightfully claims that:
“An emotional story is the only kind of dialogue that triggers this kind of mind-meld between two brains.”
He defines a good story as “neural entertainment”, one that successfully simulates reality.
Furthermore, research also shows the implications of the written word on the human mind. Here, the use of certain words and language weaves the picture together. Traditionally, the Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area of the brain is activated when dealing with written words. But a reader truly immerses in a story when language is used to prompt a response. In doing so, words that appeal to smell, activate the olfactory cortex.
Similarly, on reading metaphors and incidents relating to texture, the sensory cortex comes to play. While reading accounts of action or something involving movement, the motor cortex of the brain lights up. On that account, stories become unparalleled and their implications directly induce a reaction. This truly highlights the power of words when spun together in absolute harmony.
If you are building up a story for your business and plan to market it, here are some handy storytelling tips.
Business Storytelling Tips
1. Be Original
The audience today is more aware, educated and open. This leaves no room to fabricate a story that might seem too obvious or over-the-top.
Know that the aim of storytelling is to inspire and gain the trust of the audience. Although all businesses or startups have rough initial days, to include it in the brand story depends on the message you want to convey.
Know that your brand story is a strategic move and needs to be well thought of.
The best move is to be authentic and communicate values that you believe in Focus on building a genuine connection with the audience and leave no room for confusion.
2. Define the Hook
Besides establishing a bond, the story that your brand tells should engage the listener. For instance, everyone knows how Apple was bootstrapped and the problems Steve Wozniack overcame and gradually myths like 'apple was started in a garage' cropped up.
Then again there are stories which seem believable and others which look made-up. You want your business story to fall in the former lot.
To build trustworthy stories, you ought to:
- define the hook, the attraction or the selling point
- keep the language constant
- inspect the emotions which you want your brand to be associated with
- emphasize on creating an emotional connection
3. Have a Goal
What do you want to achieve by putting out your business story? Do you desire to up sales, build trust, or ruffle engagement? Only with an end goal in mind, you will be able to formulate strategies that can then be converted into stories. Stories are how you sell. This doesn’t necessarily qualify as a storytelling tip, but the point of putting it in this section is to identify that all strategies and tricks must be aimed at a goal. There’s no such thing as aimless marketing.
4. Work Around a Buyer’s Journey
Two things- You can’t feed a salad to a lion and you can’t feed him when he is out there to quench his thirst at a stream. A lion wants what he wants.
Your typical buyer has a typical journey leading to a purchase. As a marketer, it is your responsibility to identify this journey and build a storyline that guides the user to a purchase. So, it is not just about being in the right place at the right time, but also about giving the right product at the right time.
Keeping in mind the direct implications stories have on a prospective reader, businesses have massively gained by wielding this creative superpower. Are you geared up for using this art?