I write and speak a lot about storytelling. Of course, my focus is the business world and helping organizations engage better with people. But when it really comes down to it, there isn’t really any difference between stories told for a business purpose and those told otherwise. Why? Because we are all people. Businesses have a terrible habit of de-humanizing the world, of turning people into numbers and relationships into prospects. Only that doesn’t really engender trust, credibility, and loyalty, does it? Characteristics that every business wants from their customers.
No, business must treat their audience as people. They must learn to engage with them. They must learn to connect with them. Stories do that really well which is why I pound the pulpit everyday (including in this very post). Only most business marketers don’t consider themselves storytellers. They equate storytelling with Stephen King and Shakespeare, not with their craft of creating demand, building pipeline, and converting prospects.
But I think all marketers can be storytellers because, as people, we are all storytellers at heart. We may not be comfortable with it. We may not understand how to do it (i.e., the conventions). But those are surmountable obstacles.
Below is a link to a TED playlist on “how to tell a great story.” This playlist features 6 videos from 6 well known storytellers who talk about everything from cultural stories to comic books.
I’ve sampled two of them and tried to capture their key points.
Andrew (the guy behind Wall-E and Toy Story) explores what makes stories great. In his words, great stories “make us care.” And when we care? We have a relationship with the storyteller. Some of his key points about a great story:
- They should provide a promise that the story will lead somewhere. In my 9C’s of Storytelling, I refer to this as Conclusion. Any story with a good narrative arc will have a reason for existing because there is a resolution that is promised.
- The unifying theory of 2+2. Don’t give your audience 4. Give them 2+2. As humans, we are wired to deduce. Let them figure it out and draw their own conclusions.
- Characters have an itch they can’t scratch, some fundamental motivation that drives them. This is part of the 2+2, the thing that the audience has to deduce.
- Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty (William Archer). You story needs to construct anticipation and it needs to make the audience want to know what happens next.
- Storytelling has guidelines, not hard, fast rules.
- Wonder is the “secret sauce” of great stories. Wonder is honest. It’s innocent. It can’t be artificially created.
- Abrams (yeah, that Lost guy amongst other epic blockbuster movies) talks about mystery and why it’s so important in stories. And he rambles a a bit but he has some very salient ideas.
- Good stories (like StarWars) are a series of questions that continue to lead the audience towards the conclusion.
- Intentionally withholding information is much more engaging. This is similar to Andrew Stanton’s second point (the unifying theory of 2+2) and his fourth point about anticipation.
- Technology enables storytelling. It provides us possibilities to tell a story in any way, shape, or form. Technology has become part of the storytelling.
Image courtesy of www.endinghunger.org