Kings of coffee shops, queens of the stage, and jokers everywhere are keepers of an often undervalued business skill: storytelling. They use storytelling to keep their audience engaged and coming back for more.
Our cultural love of “Mad Men” has shown us that the ability to create a compelling story allows any brand to sell a product, but storytelling’s power doesn’t stop there. It works just as well within your organization to push for any new idea. Spinning an engaging story allows you to turn a bland fact or piece of information into an idea, and then guide your audience to a desired conclusion. Your fact is now their truth and it’s not just limited to a sale.
Storytelling even can be more persuasive than purely logical arguments, according to studies like this one from Ohio State University. This is true even in data-centric industries.
In my work with major analytics companies and divisions, storytelling has even emerged as a key differentiator that helps a candidate get hired. These branches need a storyteller who can weave complex information into a narrative that quickly presents insights to executive leadership. A good storyteller translates into better financial support, which in turn can yield more insightful business intelligence and a stronger return on investment.
The good news for everyone is that telling an engaging story gets easy when you put the right pieces into place. Whether you’re deep in data or want a blog that gets customers to make a purchase, here are three important considerations that can turn your tales into gold.
Start With Your Lesson
Before you begin crafting a story, decide what you want someone to understand and believe at the end. Keep your audience in mind and make your lesson important to the audience by framing it in something they desire. For businesses, this often is positioning a product or service as a best solution to a problem to make the customer’s day better.
Find a Conflict
Stories that survive the test of time tend to present a great conflict with someone the reader can root for –someone the audience identifies with and feels interchangeable with. Understandable Conflicts or challenges makes your story compelling. Improve your business storytelling by establishing a clear line from the problem to its solution via your takeaway. Mix in a few finer details to keep your story from feeling too much like a pitch.
Limit Your Background Explanation
Help your story engage with a wider audience by making the “why” behind the problem broad. It’s important to explain the root cause, but be careful of description that can limit your application.
For example, let’s assume you’re selling a product that can be used anytime of the year. Making a “2015 Spring Cleaning” blog post gives you an easy theme to work with to tout your benefits. Unfortunately, the post’s perceived usefulness can end once summer arrives.
Simply removing references to 2015 can extend your content’s usefulness to the following spring. That’s an extra year (at least) just by removing the date from your headline. To extend it even further, you can broaden the theme to general cleaning to expand it from a 3-month window to any time of the year. If you like the Spring Cleaning theme, use it in your social media promotions. It harnesses the immediacy of social networks, but gives the heart of your story an evergreen approach.
Combining these three simple lessons can give you a better story and help you achieve goals from improved traffic and conversions to convincing your boss to fund your project, department, or ambition.
The Lagniappe Lesson
Skip any part you find boring. Whether you’re presenting to a crowd, writing on a blog or tweeting out to the world, slow parts ruin stories. Cherry-pick your facts and descriptions to create quick, engaging content. It gets your audience to your takeaway faster and they’ll enjoy the experience that much more.
This was cross posted on LinkedIn here.