The word stands there like a statue. As old as humanity, and as new as the latest buzz-word. In business we seem to agree that stories are useful, but are we really sure when and where to use them?
This article isn’t the place to get into the mechanics of how stories work – the fastest way to understand that is to roll up your sleeves and take a course. But what we can do is take a snapshot of some ways that stories can help you and your business in very practical ways:
PROBLEM 1: Your team is doing great work, but no one knows about it. Okay, you want to publicise what you’re doing internally. You could hold a meeting and present facts and figures but you’re going to put everyone to sleep. If you create a story around what your team is doing, you’ll hook your audience and take them on a journey. The medium isn’t important – it might be a video, an animation, an article, an email – but using storytelling techniques you can articulate the great work your team is doing to the rest of the company. Everyone looks good.
PROBLEM 2: Your company doesn’t know who or what it is. Yes, of course you know what product or service you offer, but what is your company actually about? Maybe your business is new or perhaps you have changed priorities over the years. How do you communicate your brand within the business so everyone is on the same page? The answer: Stories.
PROBLEM 3: Your business does a lot of telling, but not much showing. This is a concept that all novelists fear and it’s true for business as well. Find a balance between telling the potential customer how great your products/services are and also taking a step back and simply showing an aspect of your company in action. Think of how nervous flyers are put at ease when they learn about the expertise of the pilot and the incredible engineering of the aeroplane. Writing stories about your people and processes without mentioning a single product or service can be a vital and very human element in your overall communications. Think of it as in-house journalism.
PROBLEM 4: You can’t get out of the business-to-business mindset. In 2016, with work/home life blurring, people bring their consumer experience into the business space. The sooner you realise that the senior executive you’re trying to sell to is also still a person, the easier it is to communicate with them. But how to do that? First, kill the jargon (they’re as sick of it as you are), but then think deeply about the problems and worries this potential customer faces in both their home and working lives. Yes, worries. We’re talking about emotions. How do you get inside their head without reading their diary? By thinking of them as a character. Novelists create characters all day long, and by building a portrait of your potential customer, you’re soon effortlessly communicating business-to-person.
So there you go: Four quick ways to use storytelling to better communicate aspects of your business – not just to the outside world, but to yourself and your co-workers as well.
Kris Evans is a writer at Microsoft UK and tutor on Faber Academy’s (Online) Writing a Novel course. He has written several novels for Hodder & Stoughton and radio plays for BBC Radio 4. His current graphic novel can be read online here.