You’ve probably heard how much our brains love stories. When used properly, they have an incredibly powerful affect on our minds.
When used badly, they can cause us to switch off faster than you can say ‘clickbait’.
It’s all very well and good knowing that stories work, but there’s a technique to them to get them to work in business.
Here are five business storytelling tips you can start using right now in your content:
1. Be specific
The universality of stories comes from the specificity of them.
Pop songs do this particularly well. Many artists like Taylor Swift and Gwen Stefani/No Doubt write from their own situations, including details like the red scarf they wore, or the metaphorical pink ribbon that’s been removed from their eyes.
These specific images add a concreteness to the story they tell in that situation.
They can also enhance the rest of the narrative, like the pink ribbon in Just a Girl symbolising the gender restraints Gwen feels holds her back in life.
2. Keep it streamlined
In novels, you can get away with having subplots because you have 50,000+ words to play with.
If your story is shorter than that, especially if it’s a story for marketing purposes, you don’t have the space for subplots.
Segues, side notes, interruptions – keep them to a minimum. Ideally, cut them out completely.
They’re distracting and can pull your reader out of the story, having the reverse impact of what you wanted.
If there are several threads to the same story, such as how you helped multiple departments, split them into several shorter stories instead of covering them all at once. This will be easier for them to follow because they’re not piecing it all together. Just because it makes sense to you and the people involved, it doesn’t mean it will to your audience.
Separate stories for each department will also will feel more relevant to your readers because they’re going to gravitate to the story most relevant to their role or industry.
They may then go on to read the rest or share them with their colleagues if they like your style.
But if your story is a mangled mess, that won’t happen.
Subplots are a nightmare to juggle. Even after nineteen books they still cause me a headache. So do yourself a favour and keep your story as streamlined as possible. Your brain – and your readers – will thank you for it.
3. Make it relevant
You’ve probably received an email (maybe even from me!) that talks about something really random, like dog walking, then finds a lesson of some in that story, and finally sells something.
This is a really effective way to write an email.
You’re creating a personal connection, getting a content idea from something simple that happened in your day, teaching your audience something to show your authority, then reminding them that they can pay to get even more help from you!
But if the story you tell doesn’t follow the story, lesson, sale format, it’s probably going to fall flat. It will confuse your audience and mean they’re less likely to want to read your content in the future because they don’t get what the point of it is.
It’s as equally important for your story to lead into a lesson as it is for your lesson to be relevant to your audience.
If your audience is small business owners, you don’t want the lesson to be on how to train a dog to do recalls, even if your opening story was about what happened on a recent dog walk.
If you were talking about a recent dog walk, the story could be about how you went somewhere new and it changed your perspective. The lesson could then be about how sometimes all you need is a change of direction to find a new solution to an old problem. And how working with you could help them to achieve that.
4. Use plain English
When people hear that I have an MA in Creative Writing, they often assume that I like to read complicated, verbose texts and that’s how I’m going to write.
But I’ll never forget the words of one of my old history teachers: ‘I love reading your writing. It sounds like I’m chatting to you. Don’t ever change it.’
And I never have.
While I love words like ‘tchotchke’ and will try to use it whenever I can because I find it satisfying to say/write/confuse people with, writing an entire blog post, email, or social media post in the style of Blur’s Park Life will just put your readers off.
Your readers are busy. They have a lot to do. Their minds are juggling a gazillion things at once.
Respect their time by making their life as easy as possible. Write simply!
There’s a reason the most popular newspaper in the UK has an average reading age of seven. And it sure isn’t the quality of the stories it prints.
5. Download my templates
If you like the idea of using stories in your business, but you’re not sure how to go about it, my storytelling templates are just what you need!
You can adapt them to different mediums, from blog posts to social media to emails.
And whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours, you can use one of them to bring your content to life. You can even combine some of them to really bring your content to life!
You’ll also get my follow-up emails that go into more detail about how you can tell better stories, and why you shouldn’t follow The Hero’s Journey in your marketing.
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