If you could take someone on a journey – if you could invoke strong, impacting emotions – why wouldn’t you? Storytelling enables you to create an immediate and intimate connection with customers and clients. Here’s how to harness this art to captivate your audiences…
When someone says, “Let me tell you a story…” you lean in a little, you listen, you pay attention. According to narrative transportation theory, when people listen to a story, they’re doing two things:
1. Connecting with the protagonist on an emotional level.
2. Building pictures inside their head.
When they do this, they go through a change – they start to see the world from the protagonist’s perspective and that’s really powerful. Particularly when YOU are the protagonist.
That’s why storytelling is such an important device for startup business founders who want to draw in new audiences and build a connection with them. Here’s how to get started…
Your storytelling framework
1. Start with the behaviour
Start with behaviours rather than personas. What behaviours do you want to see? It might be something simple like ‘sign up to a newsletter’ or something bigger like ‘buy this product’ or ‘sign a petition’.
When you’ve nailed down the behaviours you want to see, you can start working backwards to identify the customers who can or will carry out those behaviours. This will help you understand who your audience is for the content you’re creating.
2. Align with your company strategy
Don’t waste time telling stories that don’t support your company strategy. The behaviours you want to see happen – and that you’re trying to encourage through storytelling – need to stem from your strategy.
3. Find your format
Think about the best way to reach people with your story. Are your customers conference-dwellers? If so, tell your story at a conference. Are they the type of people who like to sign up and commit to something? Then storytelling with a pledge might be the perfect way to appeal to them. Podcast listeners? Do a podcast (you get the gist).
Simple storytelling structures
These structures are probably as old as storytelling itself, but are still highly effective as frameworks to hang your narrative on:
1. A beginning, the middle and the end
Don’t overcomplicate your story – just think about a beginning, a middle and an end. This structure can apply to any format, be it a short Instagram story, a film or a speech.
2. The hero’s journey
In this structure, the hero starts off in a familiar setting – then goes on an adventure into the unknown to conquer a challenge – and finally returns to the starting point, having undergone a transformation.
There are common features to every hero’s story, such as the need to obtain something or save someone. The hero often doesn’t want to go. They usually find a mentor who helps in some way. There tends to be a struggle or conflict. When the hero returns, they’re not quite the same person who went away.
You don’t have to follow this structure exactly, but you can use some of the elements to tell your story. Its familiarity should instantly resonate with your audience.
Struggling to tell your own story?
You’re not alone. Telling our own story is much harder than sharing someone else’s (we know too much about ourselves).
Here’s an exercise to help you tell your own story:
1. Listen to the Guy Raz podcast: ‘How I built this’.
2. Write down the questions Guy asks his guests.
3. Get a friend to ask you those questions.
4. Ask your friend which of your answers they found most interesting or valuable (and listen to your own answers afresh as if you’re hearing them for the first time).
5. Use your answers to create your own hero’s journey.
A few extra tips:
- Don’t tell stories about other people but do share other people’s stories. Let the ‘protagonists’ speak for themselves.
- Make sure you have a diverse range of stories to tell, to appeal to your whole customer base. For example, if you share a story that may appeal to 20% of your customers, make sure you share stories that represent the other 80%.
- Tell honest stories – the more sincere you are, the more resonance and rapport you’ll create.
- Having a format that’s uniquely ‘you’ will create loyalty. (Think about your favourite podcast, no matter who the guest is each week, you listen anyway.) Your audience will recognise your format, take comfort in its familiarity and visit again and again.
This how-to guide was inspired by one of our Zoom Dives with Director at Storythings, Hugh Garry, who says, “Stories are like Trojan horses for emotional connections.”
Our Zoom Dive events are deep-delving discussions between our founder, Carolyn Dailey and a handpicked creative business expert. You can listen to Carolyn and Hugh’s full discussion here.