The Five Components of Building Business Stories That Resonate

Trent Warrick
Senior Digital Marketing Manager
June 26, 2017
Trent Warrick
Senior Digital Marketing Manager
June 26, 2017

This is a guest post from Spencer Waldron, European Regional Director at Prezi.

Our attention has become a valuable currency in today’s world — and everybody wants it.

The result is that we’re all much more protective of who we give our attention to. More importantly, it’s making us very unforgiving of the people and brands who waste it. But brands that stick to authentic storytelling cut through the noise, capture our attention, and keep us engaged. To help you deliver a better business message, here are five critical components of developing stories.

1. Story listening has to come before storytelling.

First, it’s important to understand that stories have already been told by your company. The founding story, the story of your employees, the stories of your customers, etc. Some of these stories will need re-telling, and some will help you to develop entirely new narratives.

Spend time interviewing lots of people inside the company and get them to tell the story of why they are passionate about what they do. This is a process that General Electric went through many years ago, and as a result came out with a wildly successful series of videos.

2. Tell the right kind of stories.

Next, tell the stories that your audience wants to hear, not the stories that you want to tell. Sometimes there can be a large gap between the two. Jot down what the emotional triggers are for your audiences. What do they care about? Ask lots of questions about what they feel — about their job, their industry, the future. If a story you develop is steeped in one of these emotional triggers, there’s a good chance it will resonate more.

Here is a great example from Google India. Ever think you could get a video about your products seen by 13M people? That’s the power of emotion. They used the emotional trigger of the partition to great effect.

3. Influence your audience’s memory.

When 80% of content is forgotten within 2 days, it’s important to strategically influence what people remember. Pick one or two key messages that you want your audience to retain and attach to your brand, then repeat that message multiple times throughout your presentation or content.

Perhaps the best example of this is Steve Jobs’ talk at MacWorld back in 1997. He left the audience in no doubt of the two words he wanted them to remember: think different.

4. Use a story structure.

When it comes to story structures, the Hero’s Journey is perhaps the most well known. Joseph Campbell, having extensively researched two thousand years’ worth of myths and legends, first identified this structure in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).

What’s less known is that Campbell became friends with George Lucas, ultimately influencing the story structure of Star Wars — and countless other movies, I’d wager. Consider Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, for example. They all follow the same arc.

If you’re struggling with where to start, try applying one of these basic structures to your business story. It’s a process that will help hone your storytelling skills tremendously.

5. Context versus content.

Expectations and preferences change depending on where we are and what we’re doing — even in the digital world. If I’m on LinkedIn, for example, then I’m typically open to longer form content. If I’m on Instagram, then I’m looking for inspirational photography or short video. If I’m on YouTube, then I’m looking to learn or be entertained.

For business storytellers, this means learning to tell the same story differently, depending on the platform. You might have a ten minute video on YouTube, an inspirational Prezi on, a set of black and white images on Instagram, and a simple statement on Twitter. Each of these pieces of content should tell the same story, but in a different way.

Hopefully this gave you insight and inspiration for creating your next business story. If you’re interested in hearing more or getting your pressing questions answered, check out my webinar with BrightTALK on Wednesday, June 28. You’ll learn:

  • How to turn user feedback, prospect needs, and industry trends into stories that stand out
  • How to leverage the techniques and practices of renowned writers, speakers, and entertainers to develop more effective brand messaging
  • Tricks and tips used by expert marketers to craft meaningful stories that will help you grow your user base

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