Labor Day weekend has come and gone. It’s the proverbial marker to end summer and begin fall, though by the calendar (and for those of us in warmer climes) summer has a few more weeks on the dance card.
Chances are you got together with friends and family at some point this weekend and probably heard or told lots of stories—stories about what Uncle Joe’s kids are up to in college, places the Aunt Martha went to on her summer vacation, the big raise overachieving Cousin Tony got, and on and on.
If you found the stories interesting, they probably made an emotional connection with you, something that made you more than casually interested in the tale being told. That’s what great stories, and great storytellers do. They draw you in, make you care, and entertain.
Great brands depend on great stories as well. Do you have a great brand story? How well is it being told?
About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog on “The Art of Storytelling.” Here it is again. Enjoy!
The Art of Storytelling
(Originally published May 20, 2015 by Paul June)
Everyone has a story, and everyone likes to hear a good story. It’s a unique quality of being human. Even cave dwellers told stories.
In fact, for millennia, before we had writing, oral storytelling was the only way history passed from one generation to another. Stories were also “told” through cave paintings, hieroglyphics, singing, and even dance.
As kids, we loved to tell stories. Who can forget sitting around the campfire telling stories until the wee hours, or gathering at the dinner table, all attention on Mom or Dad as they entertained us with tales of their days at work or some funny anecdote involving a family friend or relative, or some adventure from their earlier years, before it was our turn to tell them about our day in school?
Even today, though methods of delivery have changed (instead of carving on a wall, we type on a keyboard or speak into a microphone), storytelling is as important as ever—whether it’s men in a bar who “peacock” to woo potential dates or try to one-up their bar mates, or it’s in the boardroom where executives craft stories to sell their brands.
WHAT MAKES STORYTELLING SO ENDURING?
Stories stick. Stories make facts and data and details interesting and memorable. Rattle off a bunch of statistics, and few will remember what you said. But include those same statistics in a story, and the information becomes instantly more memorable.
Information without benefit of a story is just that, information that goes in one ear and out the other. Couch that same information in a story, though, and now you’re cooking with gas.
WHAT MAKES A STORY GREAT
Admittedly, not everyone can tell a story as well as a bestselling author, but thinking you have to be a great writer to be able to tell a great story is wrong. Abraham Lincoln was a great storyteller, and so was Steve Jobs. Bruce Springsteen is a great storyteller, too, albeit through song. Even you can be a great storyteller . . . and in some ways you probably already are.
Chances are stories are a big part of your daily routine. Did you post something on Facebook today? Write a blog? Share something funny that happened at work with your spouse? Relate a funny anecdote at a board meeting?
If so, then you’re a storyteller. Of course, just how good a storyteller you are—well, that’s a whole other story.
Great stories aren’t about droning on about this or that, or making “it” all about you. Great stories—whether personally or professionally focused—connect emotionally with an audience. Great stories draw listeners in. Great stories make the audience care about the story being told.
Often, audience members can see themselves in the story—what would they do, how would they react in the same situation?—or they focus on how what you are saying might benefit them . . . or they are simply entertained.
ABOUT MY STORY
If I were to share with you the Cliff Notes version of my story—my name, when I was born, where I went to school, the jobs I’ve held, and other life milestones—you might shrug and say, “Gee that’s swell Paul,” and listen politely, but there would be nothing particularly memorable or compelling to what I have to say.
Now, were I to tell you that I rose up the ranks to become a marketing executive at an early age, or that I successfully built and sold a business before the age of 40, or that as recently as 18 months ago I was seriously considering trading in my “entrepreneur’s card” for another run at being a corporate executive, then you might pay a little more attention. You’d be thinking, “This story is about Paul, but maybe there’s some lesson learned he can share about building and selling a business that I can put to good use?” or “What is it about being an entrepreneur that made Paul choose that career path versus sticking with the corporate gig?”
STORYTELLING AS A PROCESS
We all have stories to tell, and often it’s more about HOW you tell your story that engages audiences than it is the actual content. Yes, that’s right: even storytelling has a process.
To craft a good story, whether it’s of a personal nature, business-related, or both, you must ASSESS, STRATEGIZE, and PLAN (and if this has you wondering how you can possibly remain spontaneous if you have to pre-plan the stories you tell, trust me: with practice, good storytelling becomes second nature, almost like a reflex).
Here are some storytelling points to consider:
Goals and Objectives
- Does your story have a point?
- Do you intend to entertain, persuade, advise, inform, share an idea, grow a business, or do something else?
- Will others be interested . . . and why? Is there any benefit or value to them in hearing what you have to say?
- How will those hearing or reading your story react? What actions will they take?
- What actions do you want your audience to take?
- Does your story share anything new or advance an idea?
- What makes your story unique?
- What details do you need to convey to meet your objectives? What can be left out?
- Where does your story begin?
- Where does it end?
- How will you tell your story? Will you deliver it verbally, in writing, through pictures, in-person, through advertising . . . or all of the above?
- Where will you tell your story—online, via social media, on TV or radio, through speaking engagements, or in a book—and how frequently will you tell it?
- How can people follow-up after hearing your story to get more information, share it with others, hear it again, or take some other action?
STORIES ARE POWERFUL
When you master the art of storytelling, you begin to realize that communication about you, your business, or your brand doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) a bunch of bullet points or taglines or random factoids devoid of emotion.
Stories inspire. They make your message more relatable to your audience. Stories build bridges by making audiences care about what you have to say. And when people care, they remember . . . they engage.
Isn’t it time for you to tell your story? Isn’t it time for you to build some bridges?
You can start by sharing a bit of your story here.
Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O’MONKEYZ, a full-service digital media and marketing group specializing in more creativity, ideas, and fun for action sports marketing, sportswear marketing, sports product marketing, active lifestyle consumer products, health product marketing, and brands in San Diego and Southern California.