Why is storytelling relevant for business?
Recently I came across the concept of storynomics by Robert McKee, otherwise known as corporate storytelling. A fascinating concept which looks at how people have interacted through the ages and how in today’s fast-paced, global and ultra-competitive business environments, it still has relevance and could perhaps be the key to competitive advantage.
Essentially it makes the case that storytelling should be part of every corporate arsenal, for use across nearly all aspects of its business. It has the ability to influence culture, build a brand, encourage teamwork and spur innovation, all through connecting individual interest groups.
The story doesn’t need to be long or comprehensive, it can be small consisting of six words, a tweet (120 characters), a book or even a movie. It must however always be consistent, clear and have an agenda (beneficial to the company). Done correctly, it can spread a message far more effectively than through traditional marketing methods, this is done through ensuring that the content is emotionally charged, novel and memorable. According to Robert Ballard a successful story will inform, educate and inspire – all attributes that any marketing department would extol in their campaigns.
We are the stories we tell, but we sometimes lose track of this. When was the last time you took a step back and did a self-audit on yourself or your business – are you where you expected to be, where you wanted to be, or in a lot of cases, just plain confused? As humans we are geared towards learning and the telling of experiences through stories is one way to share your knowledge which allows for engagement and understanding.
My argument is that through successful storytelling (using your marketing department) you have a much better opportunity to cut through the clutter and reach your intended audience in a more meaningful way. This is easier said than done, however, if you consider companies that have done it right, such as the ever exalted Apple – everybody knows their story, the company’s customers have an emotional connection with its products, it has a loyal customer base and as its very own following (fan boys/tribes) which sings the company’s praises through testimonials, comments and recommendations on the company and its products (usually in a positive way). In many ways Steve Jobs, who amongst all his faults was an excellent communicator and visionary, and certainly knew how to tell a story and work an audience. He proved that by making an emotional connection with customers you can turn about the fortunes of the business.
How does storytelling apply to you and your business?
With storytelling, it is important that a customer is the hero not the product you are trying to push. Through focusing on how you can enable customers to attain their own goals (through use of your products), you create the desire and interest to encourage them to buy and stay loyal. To help with this you can put the spotlight on your customers, tell their story through testimonials, comments and recommendations. Obviously it will have to be monitored and you may need to react to issues or opportunities as they arrise however, one started the benefits of storytelling don’t just stop at marketing.
There is an opportunity to use storytelling to directly influence the culture of a business, it can bring together people under a common umbrella (such as a company objective/goal) and make them feel part of a community who can/must work together and cooperate to attain their goals. With support from management such a “story” can motivate and increase levels of satisfaction throughout all departments. Interesting to note is that storytelling is becoming ever more important during the recruitment stage for the employer, when a particular skill set is in demand it could be that the right story is the key deciding factor for a candidate to accept a role within the company. This is also applicable to retaining staff as it can foster loyalty, motivation and employee actualisation.
How can I get started?
- The first step is to consider your current story, audit it and consider where it stands and where you feel you need to be.
- Consider your objective/agenda and ensure that the story moves in a positive direction towards this outcome.
- Make sure that your story is consistent across all aspects of the business as well as towards your goals.
- Ensure that the message is clear and not open to confusion, use the KISS method (keep it simple stupid), a good test is to dumb it down to 4 words – can you get the message across in four words?
- Remember that the customer is the hero and not your product – focus on how your product can have a positive effect on the life/goals of your customers. Put the spotlight on your customers and how they use your product.
- Engage your customers at every opportunity, in particular the new digital age has given us social media as a means to achieve this. Keep your message consistent, respond to as much activity as possible and always stay positive. Engagement with customers and the skill set to go with it is every bit as important an asset as traditional marketing assets.
- Integrate with your current marketing plan
Copyright Jerry Crowley 2016.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you’ve any questions or queries please don’t hesitate to ask your questions in the comments section below.