Corporate Storytelling Requires Courage
BY John Miller
April 12, 2016

You’ve heard that storytelling is the newest, best way to create a connection between your brand and your customers. But simply knowing this doesn’t mean you can do it – you need to be able to turn that knowledge into action, which requires two things. First, effective corporate storytelling requires having the skill to weave together a compelling narrative.

Secondly, even if you have the skill, you need to have the courage to buck convention and try something new. While many brands claim they’re embracing storytelling, most of them are really just spitting out the same old sales messages – messages that people tune out.

You can’t simply call your sales messages a “story” and be done with it; you need to step back, empathize with the audience and understand what Seth Godin calls their worldview – the way they acted and believed and judged before they encountered you. When you put yourself in the shoes of the audience, you’ll often find that you’re at odds with the people in your own organization.

That’s why it takes courage to create a great corporate story.

Consider this great example from the world of binge-worthy TV: In Episode Six of the FX show “The People vs. OJ Simpson,” the Johnnie Cochran character, played by Courtney B. Vance, displays a deep understanding of how to connect with an audience as he’s strategizing with his team:

“I just want to impress upon everyone … that the most important thing is the story. Now [prosecutor Marcia Clark]’s got the ball and she’s telling the story. But instead of responding to her story or refuting her story, we need to be telling a more credible one. We need to gather the jury around a fire, and tell a better story. We need to make them believe.”

He goes on to say that he doesn’t remember a thing about the police that found the evidence at the crime scene and asks “why is that?” It’s because the story they told was perfunctory. It was just the facts, ma’am. It was boring, and it didn’t engage the audience. It was forgettable. Is there a greater sin when trying to win an argument?

And yet, it’s very understandable; it’s very possible you’ve struggled with having the cajones to suggest something new for your organization. When you try to break the mold, you might be painting a target on your own back; it’s far safer to use the same words and same ideas as everyone else in your industry, even if it automatically puts a ceiling on your efforts. To try something new and different requires courage.

Corporate storytelling requires courage.

In today’s buyer-controlled environment, it’s time to move past worn out sales messages that no one pays attention to any more to build a master narrative that describes your offering and the advantage it brings to your customers.

If you’re going to connect with the audience, you need to have the courage to move beyond facts and reach for their emotions. This isn’t mushy, artistic stuff; it’s science – consider that the average consumer processes more than 100,000 words every day; how will your words stand out? Studies have shown that customers make purchase decisions based upon emotion rather than logic. And nothing fires up our emotions like a good story. Further research shows that stories have the power to fire neurons, get us excited, and get us to feel emotion. In other words, a rich, compelling story can move your customers towards purchase.

And yet so many businesses are afraid to truly embrace storytelling.

A good story is still something outside the corporate norm. It requires identifying heroes, infusing drama into the narrative and taking stands – something many businesses are wary of doing.

In short, it means there’s some risk involved.

Do you have the courage to give it a try?

Let’s talk about growing your company.

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