Who doesn’t love a good story? I’m particularly at my best reading these Curious George books to my kids at night. There’s always something about George getting into trouble and learning a lesson that I enjoy — but I think my kids just like how I goof around and tend to get creative with the plots each time I read them.
While the enjoyment is spending time with my kids, the challenge is always trying to make the same story interesting again and again. Does that challenge sound familiar at your job?
I was lucky enough to speak to a group of Northwestern Univerity IMC graduate students a few weeks ago on this topic of storytelling. I started my discussion by asking a simple question — what are the two things that every business does? The first answer was easy — sell. Obviously to exist companies need to make revenue and they do this by selling. The second took a little longer to get, but as you can tell by the theme of this post the answer is — tell stories.
That’s it? Sell and storytelling? In my opinion, yes. We just don’t call it storytelling. Words like differentiation and branding come to mind as do tactics like case studies and third party influencers.
But those words and tactics are parts of the story. So what is storytelling and how do we use it? Here’s a great post by Kevin Dugan on the topic. You should take a look at what he has to say.
I like stories for a few reasons and try to use them as much as possible. Here’s my line of thinking:
1. Stories make your organization come alive. Telling stories gives depth and perspective to the products and people of your company. While you only make “widget123” there is a reason you make it, people who make it and customers who buy it. Providing background on how it “widget123” was invented, examples of how customers use them, and why they are important to your industry (and perhaps the economy) gives your product and company life.
2. Stories give you credibility. While fact sheets and statistics are nice and get to the point they rarely get you anywhere on their own. Stories can demonstrate why there is a need for your company and the things you do. And face it, facts and figures do support your stories — not the other way around. I don’t think I’ve ever had a reporter write a story about my company or clients based on a fact sheet, but giving them a story — buttressed with facts — makes my pitch that much stronger.
3. Stories differentiate what we do. While competition can drive us all bananas (Curious George pun intended) it only forces us to tell better stories. The next time you’re stuck in a competitive situation start asking your product teams about the stories they can tell. You may be surprised at how many ideas you can generate to really stand out from your competitors (and hopefully they’re not reading this post).
Now it’s your turn. How do you develop stories for your company? What stories work for you? And of course if you have any children’s book recomendations I’m open for ideas (so are my kids).