Every business has a story because every business has people. By people, we don’t just mean your team, but also your customers, potential customers, and business advocates. The stories you tell shouldn’t be about your organization, but these audiences. By sharing their storiess, you invite them into a larger narrative and show the role your business plays in improving their lives.
Storytelling is much easier said than done. That’s because organizational stories reach far beyond just the telling. In order to share these impactful narratives, your business much take the time to collect and craft stories into a meaningful experience for the right audience.
Sound confusing or daunting? It doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of businesses who use this same method (whether they realize it or not) to attract and serve customers every day. Your company can do the same by following these simple steps.
1. Listen For Stories
Your stories are about other people—because they make your business possible. Therefore, you can’t tell their stories without first listening for them. These true stories are buried in the minds of your customers and influencers. Only a careful ear can draw them out.
Story listening must always come before storytelling.
At the core of story listening is forming relationships with these audience members. Not only because that’s the most reliable way to hear their stories, but also because you’ll need to earn their trust if you hope to share these stories publicly. Always start with your people.
2. Edit Your Stories
There’s a step that should always come between story listening and storytelling. What you’ve heard isn’t a polished narrative yet—it needs your professional story touch before it can be shared. This means editing and assembling the pieces of the story into a clear and compelling narrative.
Find the central message of the story. Connect all of the pieces together so that they elevate that core message. Figure out how to connect that back toward your brand narrative. This takes time, skill, and practice. But the more stories you edit, the better they’ll become.
3. Share The Stories
Telling the story is just the tip of the iceberg—it’s the most visible part of the process. There’s a great deal of effort involved to get to this point. Nevertheless, it’s still important to execute this step effectively because this is when you pass the idea of the story from inside your organization into the minds of your audience.
The key is considering the context when and where your story is shared. Any good story can be recycled across mediums and shared by any number of people. However, the narrative will be received differently if it’s shared in person compared to a blog post or podcast episode. Adapt the elements of the story to match the medium and the related audience.
4. Make it an Experience
People don’t remember information—they remember the experience you created for them. A story is information shared in an emotionally evocative way. The goal is to make your audience feel something and then tie that feeling to the message you’re trying to convey.
What emotion do you want to stir within people? As you craft your message, be sure to focus the elements on developing this experience. The best stories transport the audience somewhere. This is true for fictional stories, but they can be true for your organization as well.
5. Call Them to Action
There’s an ultimate goal for any story you share—to take a specific action. Once they’ve experienced the story you shared, they should be inspired to do something about it. That could be any number of things from buying your product, attending your event, or changing their diet.
Great organizational stories call the audience to take action. Otherwise, what’s the point? The action should be clear and directly connected to the narrative. Ideally, this benefits your business, but the higher priority is helping your audience. It should be something they’ll want to do.
6. Instill Change
If your audience takes the action, they should experience some change in their life. Your product should relieve some pesky pain point. Your event should give them inspiration to live better. Because the purpose behind these stories is to help continue to serve your audience. Hopefully, this also grows your small business, but that’s just the side benefit.
When you serve people better, they have better stories of transformation to tell. When these stories were inspired by your business, then you can recycle those stories to inspire others. This is the core of the story cycle—creating a self-propelling system of better narratives. This is how you build trust with people and grow your mutually-benefitial business.
Continue the Story Cycle
This blog post comes from Robert Carnes’ new book, The Story Cycle. The book outlines six phases of storytelling within any small business. The book is a resource for any business leader, entrepreneur, or marketing professional on leveraging your stories for greater growth and impact.
Make storytelling easier for your organization by learning from real-world examples and practical advice. The book releases in October 2022. Order your copy at StoryCycleBook.com.
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