Storytelling in business

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A presentation that explains the what, why and how of storytelling in business. It's an expanded version of the presentation that I gave at the Digital Marketing for Business Conference in Raleigh, NC in 2013.

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  • What is it? Does it work? Why does it work? What kinds of stories can we tell? How do we tell the story? What do we tell it with?
  • Not office gossip, watercooler or printer chatter. Not stories about the boss’s family.
  • Not making fraudulent claims about your product, service, capabilities or financial performance.
  • Telling stories that move your audience’s hearts and motivate them to act. Connecting with them emotionally so that they change perceptions and thoughts.
  • Audience can be clients, customers, collaborators, employees, your manager, her manager’s manager, your peers, vendors, business partners, media channels
  • Examples… if you’re selling computers, story for business partners or channel on why you decided to create new product or service
  • Media channels - story of how new strategy was created and implemented resulting in top line revenue growth
  • Various disciplines - Marketing, leadership, communications, sales, human resources, organizational development, finance, public relations, advertising, fund-raising
  • Various formats and channels – web videos, branded content, TV ads, blogs, podcasts, customer stories, user generated stories
  • Who uses it? Lots of companies, e.g. those with commodity products – Coca Cola, Pepsi - also BMW, Mercedes, mega-conglomerates – helps differentiate product and brand
  • Some examples – Pepsi Max branded content with Kyrie Irving.
  • Google crammed 10 product features into this 53 second video, without mentioning them a SINGLE time
  • Collectively, Pepsi Max has over 70M YouTube views for their branded content - just on official YouTube channel! Malaysia Airlines example.
  • Culturally – exist in every society. Good stories transcend racial identity, ideologies, philosophies and religious beliefs.
  • Historically, pictures have been used to tell stories for tens of thousands of years - El Castillo paintings in Spain, Lascaux in France, aboriginal paintings in Australia
  • Historically – oral storytelling traditions have existed since the dawn of humankind to transfer knowledge, lessons, messages
  • and yes.... to sell stuff.
  • Storytelling is weaved into who we as humans are and is important for conveying knowledge, passing down traditions, morals
  • Beyond that, has scientific explanation. Broca and Wernicke’s area related to production and comprehension of words – e.g. Powerpoint, hard facts activate these areas
  • When subjects heard stories, other parts of brain activated. Different parts of brain activated when different things are mentioned e.g.motor cortex when active event is described, sensory cortex activated when descriptive metaphors are used
  • Most amazingly, experiment at Princeton - brain pattern of listeners was identical to a storyteller’s when she told them a story. That means you can get your audience to think the way you want them to by telling them a good story. Scary stuff!
  • What are the Implications of this research?
  • Use stories to motivate the behavior you want from your audience!
  • Make your stories descriptive and interesting to engage your audience and create a strong identity (example on following slide)
  • Era of big data - collection, analysis are meaningless unless you paint a story with it. HBR blog post - “data gives you the what, humans give you the why”.
  • Kimberly-Clark, provides two-day seminars to teach its 13-step program for crafting stories and giving presentations with them. 3M banned bullet points and replaced them with a process of writing “strategic narratives.” P&G has hired Hollywood movie directors to teach its senior executives how to lead better with storytelling. And some of the storytellers at Motorola belong to outside improvisational or theater groups to hone their story skills. Nike- execs are corporate storytellers.
  • 1.How you or your company helped someone solve a problem- case study or customer testimonial
    2.Why you did something you did - new product, service... new strategy. Something special - involved in new non-profit campaign, etc.
    3.Talk about your company’s past and vision for its future
    4.Talk about your employees and their involvement in the community
  • First rule – Know your audience and tailor your story to them!
  • Second rule - be authentic! It’s storytelling that tells the tale of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, vision and everything else that makes it unique. It sends out a consistent message, externally, internally and across all levels of your organization. Using your own unique voice i.e. don’t try to sound like someone you’re not. It’s truthful. No lies, no embellishments, no fabrications.
  • Third rule – Keep it simple! Doesn’t have to be epic like Star Wars,
  • Fourth rule - Follow basic guideline of storytelling – narrative arc or story arc
  • Fifth rule - Allow your personalities to shine through – people you work with are fun, but the marketing seems a bit stiff
  • Sixth rule - Be creative, be descriptive – your opportunity to distinguish yourself
  • Ideally, all forms of media! Transmedia storytelling – web video, print, website, blog, podcast, etc. - ensure consistency of message
  • Use the channels that already work for you, but be open to exploring other channels
  • Ingrained into who we are as humans. Has scientific explanation. Works! e.g. Pepsi, Shangri La, Google, etc.
  • Stories humanize us and help us form connections. In a world where human connections help us accomplish everything, storytelling is the most effective way for us to succeed, whatever we’re trying to accomplish.
  • Storytelling in business

    1. 1. What is storytelling in business?
    2. 2. It’s not gossip
    3. 3. It’s creating action & change
    4. 4. The audience can be clients, peers, employees, collaborators, business partners and media channels. In short, everyone.
    5. 5. Storytelling example: A computer company tells a story to its channel partners about why they created a new product or service.
    6. 6. Storytelling example: A company creates a story for media outlets about how a new strategy resulted in top line revenue growth.
    7. 7. Storytelling can be used across disciplines. Marketing, leadership, communications, sales, HR, organizational development, etc.
    8. 8. Storytelling spans media types: web videos, blogs, podcasts, branded content.
    9. 9. Who tells stories? All these companies, and more.
    10. 10. Example: Pepsi used the Uncle Drew series of branded content to popularize Pepsi Max.
    11. 11. Example: Google’s Parisian Love Ad crammed 10 product features into a video less than a minute long, without mentioning the features at all.
    12. 12. Why use storytelling?
    13. 13. It works!
    14. 14. Pepsi Max has over 70M YouTube views for their branded content.
    15. 15. Malaysia Airlines rolled out fastest e-ticketing implementation for a major airline using storytelling.
    16. 16. Cultural Ubiquity Stories exist in every society and transcend racial identity, ideologies, philosophies and religious beliefs.
    17. 17. History Stories have been told visually for tens of thousands of years. e.g. El Castillo paintings in Spain, Lascaux in France.
    18. 18. Historical significance Oral storytelling traditions have existed since the dawn of humankind to transfer knowledge, to teach lessons….
    19. 19. …and yes, to sell stuff.
    20. 20. Socio-cultural constant Storytelling is weaved into who we, as humans are, and is important for passing down traditions and norms.
    21. 21. Scientific explanation Broca and Wernicke’s areas in the brain are related to production and comprehension of words. Powerpoint and hard facts activate these areas…..
    22. 22. ….but when subjects hear stories, other parts of brain are activated. e.g. Motor cortex activated when active event is described, sensory cortex activated when descriptive metaphors are used.
    23. 23. Stories influence listeners In famous experiment at Princeton University, brain pattern of listeners was identical to storyteller’s when she told them a story! The point is….
    24. 24. So what are the implications of this research?
    25. 25. We can use stories to motivate behavior.
    26. 26. We can use descriptive and interesting stories to engage our audience and create a strong identity for our businesses.
    27. 27. We can use stories to give meaning to numbers.
    28. 28. We can use stories to lead more effectively.
    29. 29. What kinds of stories can we tell?
    30. 30. Possible story topics: Solving a problem Reason for action Special events Your history or future Your unique people ...tons more
    31. 31. How do we tell good stories? 6 simple rules
    32. 32. 1. Know your audience and tailor your story to them.
    33. 33. “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” Stephen Covey Avoid doing this!
    34. 34. 2. Be authentic and truthful.
    35. 35. 3. KISS (Keep it simple and sweet). No need to be complex or try to be epic.
    36. 36. 4. Follow the Story Arc, which is a great basic framework for storytelling.
    37. 37. 5. Allow your personality to shine through – in short, be you.
    38. 38. 6. Be creative and take some risks. Try new things in your storytelling to differentiate yourself.
    39. 39. What do we tell our stories with?
    40. 40. Ideally, all forms of media! Web video, print, website, blog, podcast, etc. Key is to have a consistent story.
    41. 41. Use the channels that already work for you, but be open to exploring other channels.
    42. 42. Why use storytelling?
    43. 43. Stories humanize us and help us form connections. In a world where human connections help us accomplish everything, storytelling is the most effective way for us to succeed, whatever we’re trying to accomplish.

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