Your buyers want stories. Your colleagues want stories. They both crave colourful imagery to help them visualise your concept and they want to feel it as well as see it.
Storytelling is an art that gives us many gifts:
- Clear imagery
- A character to identify with
- A rush of emotions
- Proof that your solution or idea works
Storytellers can make the audience feel joy, sadness, embarrassment, anger, and they can implicitly suggest a course of action or end up changing minds altogether.
In the Mahabharata, the longest epic in world literature, the wise sage Vyasa told a young boy, “If you listen carefully, at the end you’ll be someone else.”
But why is this true? Can’t a story be just a story, without influencing our actions and decisions? If it can, it has no purpose.
A good story well-told will always leave us with something more than just a funny tale to recount at parties, which is why it’s an art as old as Methuselah’s grandmother.
Take a look at Ancient Greek mythology for example and you’ll immediately see what kind of message the poets tried to convey.
In fact, one of the main functions of mythology was to teach the younger generation how to think and act.
Sounds a lot like copywriting, right?
Resistance is futile, we’re all enchanted by a gripping storyline and three-dimensional characters. Humans as a whole are story-addicts, literally.
Heard of oxytocin?
That’s right, it’s the so-called love hormone.
It’s the chemical that motivates cooperation with others and greatly enhances empathy. This, my dear reader, is the reason we occasionally start to mimic the protagonist of that absorbing novel we’re reading.
By now, it must be pretty clear why storytelling and copywriting should be saying their wedding vows at the altar in front of an unreasonably emotional crowd.
So, what are the basics of keeping these two together, for better or for worse, till death do us part?
The Customer Calls the Shots
You may think that the success of your storytelling relies solely on your skills as a narrator. You could be an excellent narrator and still not draw your target audience in, because there’s something else to it.
You have to know your target, their experiences, needs, desires, hopes and dreams. Your own audience is who should be giving you inspiration for your story. Create customer and buyer personas and turn them into characters.
Stick to the Point
Stories, as well as trapping readers, can abduct writers by slapping the idea of a perfect story on a fishing line and pulling it away at every step you take, sidetracking you and leaving you a great distance away from your actual objective.
Build your story around your goal.
What are you trying to convey? What parallelisms can you draw to get the clear message? Are you straying off the path?
Beginning. Conflict. Climax. End.
That’s it, that’s all it takes.
In the beginning, there were some characters in a specific setting. One unlucky day, a challenge or problem arose that forced the characters to find a solution. Then, as momentum built, the highest point of tension was reached: the climax. After an emotionally resonant climax, the story calmed down and the characters were finally where they always wanted to be.
For a less novel-like story, you can paint an accurate picture of what the situation is now and then a promising one of how it could be. What’s the hindrance? How can your idea guide the reader towards his goal?
Top Tip: Telling a story in which the character ultimately succeeds will leave the members of the audience hopeful and positive, increasing the chances of them taking the actions you want.
Personify your problem
Usually, a story has a walking, talking villain, but you only have a problem. So, personify it. Make it a lean, mean, problematic machine that threatens characters and brings a slight feeling of angst to your target.
Ah, but what’s this? You’ve structured a beautiful story with a vibrant character personality and a significant problem, but your reader tunes out after the first two lines. What do you do?
Keep it Gripping
The audience is staring blankly at the writer’s content while having what appears to be an out-of-body experience…
He or she is going to click the big ‘X’ soon; no information is going to be extracted; valuable time has been wasted; no sales will be made; the writer’s self-esteem drops under sea-level; he ends up living under a bridge with only a duck as a friend.
All because the target has lost interest – but why?
Well, you have to increase the tension. Keep your audience wondering if the character will ever succeed.
Make it excruciatingly painful for your character to make decisions. Highlight what would happen if he or she fails and keep raising the stakes. (See what I did there?)
What’s more, finding a solution must be vital to your character.
Translated: The conflict must be one that the reader faces often, if not always. By identifying with your character, your target is much more inclined to keep reading or listening.
For example, thanks to spellbinding storytelling filled with tension, young woman Scheherazade kept the heartless monarch in One Thousand and One Nights from decapitating her. How on earth did she manage such a feat? Maybe I’ll tell you towards the end. 😉
Organisations are made up of various departments and getting them all behind your marketing strategy isn’t simple. I mean, it’s not easy if you don’t know how to capture people with your words. Luckily, it’s a lot like customer comms with a few tweaks.
Internal stories should reflect the company’s goals and main values. This is the main point of your stories – what does your company strive to achieve and how? Don’t leave out the negative parts of your organisation’s story? Give a 360-degree perspective, not a narrow one.
Personas – again
Who are you trying to convince? Are they determined 9 to 5ers? Workers who aspire to climb the career ladder? These questions sound familiar, right?
Create personas for your internal audience and charm them by thinking of their unique wants and needs. This will give them a voice and make them feel included in your brand’s story.
Speaking of voice, your colleagues will start contributing ideas to the story. Being part of the company, they need to find a place inside your story and strategy, so keep your mind open.
Don’t flood your company with stories. They may be beautifully written, but you’re not looking to overload their inboxes. Stick to quality, not quantity.
Education and collaboration will make your content shine. Communicate with your colleagues through newsletters or training sessions to share new information and to avoid leaving them out.
It doesn’t have to be a written story. Do your colleagues consume more images than texts? Pop back to the palaeolithic and take a leaf out of the troglodytes’… err, well, cave wall.
Text, videos, podcasts, presentations. Find out what tickles your colleagues’ palates and serve it to them on a silver platter.
And do you know what might tickle your palate right now? Knowing how the expert storyteller kept her head.
Cruel monarch Shahryer, after being deceived by his wife, pledged to marry one virgin each day and dispose of the previous day’s wife (yikes!). After 1,001 days, and wives, the merciless ruler set his eyes on Scheherazade, who was wise and well-read.
During the night, she recounted her first story to him and stopped halfway. The king, mesmerised and burning with anticipation, let her live to return the next day. Every day, when she left her stories unfinished, she left him with a massive cliffhanger.
But then what? Did he get bored? Did he let her go? Did she just tell stories every day until her death? Oh no, are you already googling the ending to find out?
In any case, storytelling is a learned skill and art. Practice, rehearse and train yourself to create a stimulating story that sticks. Try it out for yourself right now.
Create a character with the same conflict as your customers or colleagues, and put him or her in front of common obstacles.
Then share your solution and create a happy ending. Practice makes perfect!