You have a story. Your company has a story. Your coworker has a story. Your client has a story. What are they? How do they all intersect? How are you at telling stories?
Andrew Stanton, in his TED Talk “The Clues to a Great Story,” starts off by saying:
"Storytelling is...knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you're saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings. We all love stories. We're born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined."
And to him, the greatest command in storytelling is to make people care. Give your audience a reason to stop and take notice. To turn away from all other distractions and pay attention to you. Make them care on all levels—emotional and practical.
To do this, Stanton shared several core elements of a great story. Not all applied to business writing, but three stood out as powerful ways for businesses to tell better stories:
Give your audience some direction. Let them know what you’re offering and planning to provide them down the road. Be specific, not vague. A reader, customer, or visitor won’t waste their time sticking around if they don’t know what the point is. Give them some hope that you’ll take them where you’re directing them.
According to Stanton, the audience wants to do some work. They don’t want everything packaged up and handed to them. As he says, “Don’t give them four, give them two plus two.” It does sound pretty counterintuitive in the business world. We often think we have to dumb it down and make it effortless for our audience. We want to reel people in by making it as easy as possible. But maybe we should leave a little leftover for our audience to figure out themselves. In doing this, you are intentionally creating more room for engagement. And stronger engagement automatically leads to more relationships, trust, and investment.
Get your readers excited about what’s coming up. That can mean getting them excited about what’s coming up in the next sentence, or what products/services you’ll be rolling out next. Remember, we’re working on telling a story here, not just dropping a fact or deal on your audience and calling it a day.
According to Stanton, when wonder’s invoked “It’s like you’re compelled to pass it on.” Wow! How great would that be? For your audience to pass on the storytelling for you! Word of mouth referrals and happy customers promoting your business are always going to be the most powerful tricks of the marketing trade. By creating a sense of wonder, your business writing becomes memorable and more likely to be repeated.
Watch Stanton’s intriguing talk via the video above and identify what elements your company can do a better job including.