Storytelling is an art that can be learned with the right process, defined steps, and a tried and true formula. This process is worth mastering for your business and your customers. Use effective stories to bring people together and inspire action and response.
0:00:04.7 Jacalyn Holsted: Hello. I’m Jacalyn Holsted, and you are listening to On Point Conversations. In this podcast series we share creative marketing, content and branding strategies that help your business successfully navigate the new normal marketing environment.[music]
0:00:33.5 JH: Today, I’m going to talk about storytelling. And there is so much information I know, and you know about storytelling. I was just on my LinkedIn profile site, making a few changes on my profile itself, adding some experience and a few other things, and I was looking at my contacts, my connections, which are over 600, 650 something like that, 620, something on that order. And I was just looking at a few, realizing how many put that they are storytellers in their bio. And I think that’s great, I really do. But I would encourage you, if you are interested, and I think you should be, in telling stories and having your story told, that you be the one that initiates that, because it’s your story and it’s what you feel best about doing.
0:01:34.5 JH: Then you can go to a storyteller if you want to and hire them as a consultant to put that story in various areas, or to maybe make a video of the story, there’s all kinds of things, but having the groundwork done first is important, because it’s still your story and part of what you need to do. I had a very interesting conversation with a client about storytelling, and we talked about the process. Today I’m going to share the process in two forms. One is the process that leads up to the actual writing of the story, or the putting together of the concepts of the story, and then the actual story development.
0:02:16.5 JH: Storytelling is a process, you can outline steps, and it’s using facts and narrative to communicate something to your audience. Some stories are more factual than others, some are embellished or improvised a little more than others, and the point being for doing those kinds of stories is all to explain better a core message or a core concept. Storytelling is often referred to as an art. Now while, I think it is an art form, it’s not exclusive to someone who you would say, “Boy, I’m not creative, I’m going to just leave this to somebody else.” It’s a process with steps that are worth mastering for both your business and your customers. Stories bring people together and they inspire action and response. They also communicate, as I said before, a core concept, a core message that you want to get across, so that people remember it better and know how and what you’re talking about based on the story.
0:03:21.9 JH: Storytelling really helps to communicate that why, in a very creative engaging way, in a way that people understand and remember. There are so many messages out there that you want people to remember, you and your message. One of the things that when I was a child, we read a lot of the Aesop’s Fables. Now, there’s 650 of them, so hopefully you read at least one as a child, if not, I’m going to tell you the story of the hare and the tortoise, because this is the type of story also that gets to a moral. And I’ve talked to clients about this too because it’s a moral of what we were talking about.
0:04:01.0 JH: The hare and the tortoise are in the story. The hare is a rabbit, of course, and the rabbit is fast and he’s running, running, running around the tortoise and the tortoise is really, slow, and the rabbit is making fun of him, and he’s just being really antagonizing the tortoise. And then, I don’t remember whether it was the tortoise or the hare, but one of them challenged the other to a race. And of course, the hare thought, “I can win this in a second.”
0:04:30.0 JH: And he went out and developed a course with a starting line. People came, or animals came, to watch. And the hare and the tortoise started going and running in the race at the same time, and of course the tortoise was slow and easy, and the rabbit was way ahead, the hare was way, way ahead. The hare decided to take a nap, because he had so much time to do this, and he was so far ahead. He took a long nap. Well, he slept too long, the tortoise passed him, the tortoise was within inches of the finish line and the hare woke up, sprinted as fast as he could, but he didn’t make it and the tortoise won the race. The moral of the story that the slow and steady win the race. So that is a type of story that has a moral to it, you can also use stories for analogies. You might have a story that provides what you need in a message, but it’s in an analogy. The first process I’m going to talk about today is when you’re developing your story, before you even write your story, before you even put it on paper or a pencil or visual, you’re talking about, number one, you must know your audience.
0:05:45.5 JH: Now, various stories will have various audiences, so you’re not going to develop one story in your lifetime, or your business lifetime. Therefore, knowing ways to do it, knowing the steps and mastering is important to your business and your customer, so they understand, and they remember. First one, again, as I said, is know your audience. Who wants to hear your story, who will benefit and respond the strongest? To create a compelling story, you need to understand your readers and who will respond and act. Do the research, you’re going to get acquainted with who might be reading or viewing or listening to your story, and it’s also going to provide some very crucial direction for the next steps that I’m going to outline for you as you build out the foundation of your story.
0:06:35.8 JH: The second part is you want to define your core message, so you want to answer- is your story selling a product, is it raising funds, is it explaining a service or is it advocating for an issue? There are so many things. Just decide what is the point of your story. Once you’ve done that and you’ve summarized it, and I would say in a sentence or two, so that you really know what your core message is. If you can’t do it in a sentence or two you really haven’t identified that core message. Step Three decide what kind of story you’re telling. Again, the kind of story you’re telling is going to depend very much on who your audience is and what your core message is. So not all stories are going to be created equal, and you do want to determine what kind of story you’re going to tell, figure out how you want your audience to feel and react as they read.
0:07:31.5 JH: There are several different objectives, I’m just going to go through a few under step three, which was, “Decide what kind of story you’re telling.” One is you want action; you want people to do something. So somehow your story is going to lead up to a successful action, whether it’s giving money, buying your product, but you’re going to implement that. And one of the things I want you to do is please avoid excessive or exaggerated detail, you don’t provide your audience with a way to get distracted, because you want the action to be to changing their perception or to incite action.
0:08:14.0 JH: One of my clients, when COVID-19 started for us, which was in March, when quarantine started, their business soared. They did so well, but their supplier didn’t. The supplier they had, and they only had one, one back-up supplier but not really, could not keep up with demand. The moral of their story and what they tell and talk about is supplying or having more suppliers. Spreading the wealth, so that when something happens with one supplier you still have another one. And they share this with other companies. They also share it with their customers because it’s a real benefit to their customers when they’re producing things. The other type of story is where you tell people about yourself. Be very genuine, humanizing struggles, like failures, your wins. Because a customer today is really appreciating authenticity, and storytelling is no exception. Don’t make it up. Just look at how you can do that. This is one area where you really need to explain your own story. Another thing a story can do is convey your values as a company, so you can look at familiar emotions, character situations, so that your readers really understand what it is your values are.
0:09:36.5 JH: This is especially important when you’re discussing values that some people might not agree with or totally understand. Another reason that you might be telling a story is to foster community or collaboration. We’ve seen that a lot more, even in the COVID-19 era, where people are collaborating. They’re getting together, they’re discussing and sharing their story with others, they’re getting together with businesses, other brick, and mortar stores, to tell their story and to bring people together into their neighborhoods. They are using a situation or experience that other can relate to and say, “Me too, I want to support this”, and fostering that community or collaboration.
0:10:14.5 JH: And then the last one that I have is you’re going to impart knowledge or educate. You are telling a story, maybe it’s a trial-and-error experience, maybe it’s how you learned from a problem, the solution that you provided, provide alternative solutions. There are all kinds of reasons to tell a story. And again, your story goes back to, know your audience, and then define your core message. The other fourth point I want to make in when you develop your story is establish your call to action. You really want your stories to do something, you really want them to move your audience, you want them to buy something, you want them to get funds, whatever that is. You want to look at what we call the CTA, which is a call to action. And it will establish what you want your audience to do after they’ve read this or visually seen it or seen your video.
0:11:05.4 JH: What exactly do you want them to do after they have looked at your story or read your story or see your story? Do you want them to donate money, do you want them to subscribe to a newsletter, do you want them to take a course, do you want them to buy a product? Outline that very carefully yourself, so you know what you want the story to do for you. And then you want to choose your story medium, which does make a difference, because stories can take many shapes and forms, and so where are you going to use the story. Some stories are read, some are watched, others are listened to, like this podcast. You have chosen your story medium, there are some aspects here. Let me just go through those, there’s the written story of course, you can have your blog, it can be on your website, you can write a book, you can write articles for other people. Written stories are by far the most affordable and attainable method of storytelling, but they’re also very common. It’s a very cluttered market, and people don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time reading. So, written word really needs to pull the reader along from one thing to another.
0:12:11.3 JH: A spoken story is another one. Give a presentation, you have a pitch, you’re on a panel. Spoken stories are done live, so you want to be sure what your story is and how you’re going to present that spoken word. Another aspect is that audio story, so you’re talking podcast, maybe you’re talking on the radio, however you’re presenting your story you’re doing it auditorily, you’re speaking it. And then you have the digital story, your online story, which could be visual, such as videos, you could do animation, you can do games. There’s really a lot of options here to emotionally resonate with your audience and be active and have visual stories. People do like watching videos, podcasts are taking off now even more than ever, so there are all kinds of different ways that you can present that story.
0:13:12.5 JH: Now let’s talk about the story spine, this is where my client and I were talking about this, and they wanted to know exactly a recipe for the story. I got this when I took a class for fiction writing, but I think it’s very much apropos to writing a story. It is the story spine, it was originally created by playwright Ken Adams, and it’s really a tool for creating well-structured stories. I’m going to give you is a series of sentence fragments that prompt the narrative elements of your story, and it can be used by itself or in conjunction with any exercise where there are individuals and groups, so you can have a fun retreat and do something with your friends or with your team to answer these and work these through.
0:14:00.0 JH: The story spine in this one, the first one, is the platform. In a fairy tale it’s once upon a time, or the story starts with every day, so there is this starting point. When you do take an art class or watercolor, many times the instructor will ask you to put in a horizontal line, it’s called your horizon line if you’re doing outdoor types of scenery, because it gives you a sense of where you start, and it helps your eye go to the horizontal line and it makes the painting more interesting. This is the platform. It’s kind of that, setting the stage. So that’s number one. The second one is the catalyst. The catalyst is something like, “But one day something happened,” or “Then something changed,” maybe every day was going well and then I had an illness in the family and then something changed in my business life and changed the way I looked at things. The third point is the consequences. Because of that, what happened? Or you might say, “And then, blank,” what occurred?
0:15:08.9 JH: You have now set the platform, which is your horizontal line, your horizon line, you’ve set the catalyst, which is, “One day something happened, something changed.” And then the consequences, what happened because of that change. The fourth part of the story is the climax. Might be, “Until finally,” or “Then suddenly,” and you can make up your own, I’ve done my own prose when I’ve been team building, because we’ve used this in team building, it’s a fun approach. So, back to the climax, that’s until finally something happened and then suddenly something happened. And then the fifth part, and there’s only five parts, is the resolution, “Ever since then we’ve done this, and the moral of the story is this,” or, it might have been funny, “And the funny thing was.”
0:15:56.0 JH: Now, in my example that I gave you just a few minutes ago, I had a client that they could say every day they relied on a certain supplier with another supplier that was kind of in the back, but they relied on this one supplier. And then one day COVID-19 hit, quarantine, their sales skyrocketed, and the supplier couldn’t meet demand, so the consequence was they were having to figure out how to go back to customers, explain their situation, keep that customer, keep that customer motivated and in place and wanting that product. And then the climate was suddenly they had five or six suppliers that were able to come through, they took a while to get geared up, and now they’re very set in suppliers. Should one thing happen to one person or one supplier, then they have other suppliers in the backup. The resolution became, “We now have other suppliers. This is what we did, so that your business and your products that you want will be much timelier and maintain the quality our customers expect.”
0:17:01.9 JH: The template that I just gave you, and again, it’s the platform, the catalyst, the consequences, the climax, and the resolution, and that’s all through the story spine by Ken Adams. The template is really kind of a dynamic and fluid structure, you can do a lot with it. It allows you as a storyteller to pick and choose what works best for you, what feels the best to you, what is the most helpful to you and your customer. Some are going to enjoy working within the structure more than others, some will do better by following some of their own instincts, I would stay away from the rambling trail because if you’re rambling you’re going to lose people, but your story should be concise, something that people are able to follow and something that where that climate takes them and they’re still listening to what you’re saying, and then at the end they remember what you said.
0:17:54.7 JH: Now, I would suggest you write, so now you can put things, pen to paper, and start crafting your story. I would write your core message, your audience objective, and your call to action. You have established that. Those are the three bullet points at the top, and now you’re going to write and follow the story spine that I gave you and start putting your detail and creative flare into the story so that when you actually get to the point of “ta-da”, sharing your story, it will be much more beneficial to your audience, it will be more beneficial to you, and you will feel comfortable with it, because it’s your story. And your story will depend on your audience, so you know that when you’re talking to a certain audience, you’re not losing them. They’re not walking out of the room. They’re not leaving Zoom. Because you’re talking to the right audience.
0:18:45.0 JH: The seventh part of this now is, and the last, share your story. Don’t forget to share and promote your story. Like so many pieces of content, creating it is only half the battle. Now it’s time to share it. And depending, back to what medium you choose, whether you chose social media, whether you’re going to send it on email, whether you’re going to do video, whether you’re going to write it, whatever you’re going to do because you know your audience and you know what they’re going to look at, talk it. Spell it out. Get out there. I have one client who does Tuesday talks, which is a way to get out in front of people. He does that on Facebook. I have an artist friend who’s done interviews on Instagram, telling her story. There is a YouTube channel, many YouTube channels, I know of one that I’ve been helping with that doe their story on YouTube. While the spoken words are good, I also want you to really consider any live performances you can do.
0:19:46.0 JH: Now, we’re in a stage right now where we’re just getting out again into the world after COVID-19. There will be more options for in-person. There are also options for Zoom meetings and Zoom or whatever you use to put your performance or your presentation online, is helpful too, because you can reach more people outside of the area, people who are not going to travel to come to that particular presentation, or people who live in other countries. So that’s still an option that I would really keep open. But I would also do when you can, in-person meetings and in-person discussions, and in-person storytelling. The more places you share your story, the more engagement that you can expect from your audience.
0:20:36.3 JH: I hope this helped you today, if you have any questions, I’m at onpointthinking.com, and that’s my website. You can just go to the contact page, put your contact in there. I get those, I look at them, I answer them, if you have any questions, let me know through there. I look forward to seeing again or talking to you again in my next podcast and have a great week.
0:21:00.0 JH: Thank you for listening, and I invite you to join me next week as we talk more about specific actions you can take to reach your own business goals. You can find my library of other inspiring podcasts like this one at onepointthinking.com. Again, thank you for listening, this is Jacalyn Holsted at On Point Conversations.[music]