What is it about a good story? “Storytelling” is now enough of a business buzzword that it risks becoming cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason–it’s true.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.
Storytelling powerfully engages your stakeholders–employees, customers, donors, investors. Stories are more relatable and memorable than facts standing alone. Brain scans show that when a person hears a fact, it activates two parts of their brain while stories light up seven. With internal and external audiences, and in business, volunteer, and even home life, storytelling is a more impactful way to demonstrate results, showcase values, provide inspiration, and drive your point home.
Using storytelling as part of your marketing and customer retention strategy must include engaging your entire company and getting everyone involved in the process. It’s a challenge that proves well worth the effort, requiring story-savvy organizations to work with varying personality types and storytelling skill levels.
To start on the path to success, take these four steps to become a storytelling organization:
Step 1: Educate. Storytelling doesn’t come naturally to everyone and weaving details into a compelling fabric can be challenging. Give your team direction by holding a storytelling clinic. Go over what makes a good story and why it’s important so they can recognize and curate stories in their everyday interactions with customers. Teach them how to create a narrative flow by identifying a hero–maybe your company or a department, a customer, or even a customer’s customer–and a villain–the competition or an obstacle that must be overcome. A simple “hero’s journey” rubric is a great starting point for teams learning storytelling skills.
You have quality storytellers in your organization and should leverage them when possible. Humbly speaking, some of the most meaningful work we do at 3C Communications is helping professionals find and tell their stories in our workshops and coaching. The work we do each year with a tech client to help their product management and product marketing teams prepare for their annual user conference consistently earns our client kudos from their customers, who appreciate seeing themselves and their work in the stories the company tells, instead of dull product feature updates.
Step 2: Collect and curate. Once your team knows to tell a story, turn your focus to which stories you want to tell. Stories are a good way to showcase tools or solutions your company offers, and also allow you to showcase your corporate values and what makes you stand out from your competition.
I recently worked with a commercial real estate firm that wanted to demonstrate why it was better to work with them—a regional player who they say understands their market more deeply—than with a national firm. As their leadership knows the practices of national real estate firms well, they know the “big guys” divide their work by teams who only focus on a certain sector, such as retail, industrial, multi-family, etc. 3C’s client firm doesn’t work in silos because they are smaller in scope and take care to co-office team members with different market specialties. In a recent win, they netted a client an additional 25% above a projected sale price by positioning the property to have multiple uses instead of just being a retail offering. That is a terrific story to tell to prospective sellers and we helped them craft and teach the story so every broker in the firm could share it well.
Take time to brainstorm what types of stories you want your organization to share. You should have a mix of stories in your arsenal that bring your organization’s value proposition to life, and tactical stories about customers and prospect successes or learnings that can be told to others. Create a library that includes stories about different sizes of organizations, needs, geographies, and challenges you helped them overcome. Your internal library should be well-organized and easily accessible on your intranet, and customer-viewable stories should be on your website, YouTube channel, and on social media.
Tell your formal stories in one-pagers, whitepapers, and newsletters, and have informal stories that can be related naturally in customer conversations.
Step 3: Make storytelling part of your culture. Once you have stories tell them across the organization. Include them in team meetings or in corporate newsletters. Employees will learn new stories from each other as storytellers share experiences from all across the organization.
I recently gave a keynote presentation at a client’s staff retreat and made space in my remarks to welcome members of the audience to the stage to share stories they’d developed through their work. After one particularly good story that featured a great outcome for their customer by perfectly demonstrating a key pillar of my client’s value proposition, I asked the full room, “How many of you just heard that story for the first time?” Over eighty percent of the room put their hand in the air, and I was shocked. That was a big miss for the organization, one that we’re now helping them correct. Soon, every seller and member of the customer support team will be able to use that story to share a key part of their unique value proposition and build great relationships.
When you have a great story, share it. Get it re-told across the organization. Employees can be shy or a little uncertain about whether their experience will make a good story. I like to generate excitement around storytelling using ideas like these–
- Offer prizes for telling and teaching stories, like cash, gift cards, or a coveted parking spot.
- Run fun competitions where employees can get together at lunch to tell stories, with attendees voting to pick the best ones. Winners’ stories can be captured and shared throughout your organization.
- Put on “caring and sharing” workshops, where employees pair up to practice their storytelling skills with each other.
Step 4: Get help from a pro. We know it’s good for building relationships and having an impact to tell and share stories, but many organizations don’t have the time or expertise to manage the full process, turning their stories into sharable and reusable content. Facilitators, researchers, writers, and teachers can connect with your clients and your employees, and level up your storytelling by creating press releases, 1-pagers, and more. They can work inside your company, prepping team members to tell stories during meetings and running training sessions to give your team the tools they need to share your message in a memorable way.
How are you going to create a storytelling culture? For those just starting on this journey, I recommend taking the time to create a strategy and set goals. Explain the why and how of your storytelling mission to your team. You’ll be getting them ready to participate in the story journey and to share their stories.
And of course, this is our business at 3C Communications. When you know you need to find, share, and tell stories and are short on time or want expert assistance, we can help. Reach out to 3C Communications today to fill us in on your goals, and we can help you find the stories that light up your stakeholders and help build your amazing storytelling culture.