Business storytelling has been a buzzword in the advertisement and marketing fields for a long time. After all, since the dawn of time, people like a good tale – and when a company tells it, they may actually start loving it. With the social media frenzy we live today, getting your story out there is not hard. But what makes a story a good one?
Telling a powerful business story is an art and should be quickly mastered in the years to come.
Recent marketing trends show that sharing a business’s story will build even more confidence, trust, openness and empathy between companies and their customers, employees, suppliers, partners and so on.
Keep in mind we are not talking about entertainment here, as business storytelling has a more precise purpose. So, let’s see today the five essentials for a good story to thrill, compel, and draw people towards your business.
If you believe that concocting some heart-melting story without a shred of truth to support it or just to serve one to your audiences because everybody else does will do the trick, think again. People have a sixth sense when it comes to other people being authentic, transparent, open and truthful, and if you really want to tell a good business story, this is your starting point. For a story to be genuine, it should consist of some particular ingredients:
- Behind the curtain information about your business – think about a successful Facebook Live stream to show something about your company’s daily activities or a “how it’s made” type of show to reveal a few juicy secrets about your industry.
- Show success together with failures, talk about the ups and the downs, the victories and the disappointments. People are more empathetic to those that are open about their mistakes and offer more support. Being vulnerable in front of others isn’t a weakness.
- Tell people who you are, why you are there and why you do what you do, creating an experience for them and appealing to all of their senses: tell, show, and make them listen and feel.
One of the most striking examples of perfect brand storytelling comes from South Africa and the Bell’s Whisky Company video narrative.
Created to build brand awareness and promote the company, Bell’s made a TV ad that can put to shame some of the most famous TV ads in the world – with probably a third of their budget as well.
Bell’s advocated for continuous learning no matter age or social status and emphasized on what it means to be a Man of Character. Short, powerful, highly motivational, playing all on right emotions, the video told such a good story it gained over 2.5 million views and counting.
It was a TV ad, so it was staged and rehearsed and shot plenty of times, then edited and tweaked. We all know that, and nobody cares because of the level of authenticity, the emotion viewers were left with and the sensitive issues they picked to push on (parenthood, learning, age, social disparities, morals) makes it one of the best business storytelling examples of recent years.
Without a context, your story may bore your audience or even confuse them. Just don’t come out of the blue with a story and expect them to listen/watch/take part in it just for fun. Before anything else, you need to establish a set of parameters:
- Who tells the story?
- Why tell the story now?
- When and where does the story happen?
- Who is the main protagonist and why should the audience care about them?
- What does the protagonist want to achieve with the story?
- Who/what are the villains/obstacles of the story?
You need to answer all these questions before you present your business story to a selected audience. If it is a personal story, don’t exclude emotions from it and if it is a showcase for your company, make sure the overall feeling is not perceived as “fake.”
Just as you love a good action movie or a crime/thriller novel, so does your audience. When it comes to business storytelling, this is probably the most important part: tell them what you do and how you do it, so they sit on the edge of their chairs. An action-packed business story should ideally include:
- The protagonist’s quest
- The apparition of villains and obstacles
- The management of ups and downs, failures, unexpected plot twists, battles, rebounds, strategies employed, etc.
- Who helped the main character achieve their quest?
This is all metaphorical, of course, but the main elements remain: business storytelling is all about building communication and trust. And people tend to engage in business with companies they empathize with and brands they have positive feelings for.
Let’s talk about DollarShaveClub.com and their campaign called “Our Blades are F***ing Great.”
Aren’t you intrigued already?
Of course, you are!
The title is catchy, suggesting plenty of irreverent humor, an interesting idea and the potential of keeping you entertained for as long as your short attention span allows.
Michael Dubin, the star of the video storytelling campaign and the very founder of DollarShaveClub.com hit success literally overnight. Forbes deems his campaign “emotion-driven storytelling at its finest.”
Michael’s story had all the right ingredients that would have won short story (if written on paper) literary awards of the year and it was so politically incorrect for so many reasons, it can now be studied as a best practice example for online marketing, video campaigning, business storytelling and competitive selling techniques. We will say just this: almost 23.5 million views.
Now this is the time to wrap up your story and deliver the punch-line:
- What happened in the end with the main character and the quest?
- How was their fate changed after this experience?
- What was the lesson learned?
- What should the audience subtly learn from all this?
- What is the moral of the story?
- What message do you leave your audience with?
As an extra tip at this point, you should always tell a story with a happy ending – or at least neutral. All stories should conclude on a hopeful note, leaving people with some thought-provoking ideas.
All good stories are redrafted, edited, spell checked and sometimes need to be re-written, and business storytelling should be no different. So, before you deliver your story (no matter if it’s written, filmed, spoken or otherwise), you should practice the storytelling with a pre-set audience to give you some honest feedback. Tweak it until it gets as good as it can.
Before you start knitting your business story, make sure you deliver more than just a simple tale, but an experience they can embrace, connect with, and share with others.