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Posts Tagged ‘Storytelling’

I just saw a great slideshare presentation from Sarah Goodall, Head of Social Media – EMEA, at SAP.  Entitled, “Storytelling to Storyselling,” it’s exactly the type of resource I’ve been searching for to help put pattern and process behind that elusive — yet incredibly important — art of storytelling.

Her premise is this — in an age of information overload, getting your audience to remember anything is a challenge.  Yes, you could keep repeating yourself, and at some level that may work, but it’s more efficient to tell a story.  Why?  Because stories are how we are “wired” to remember things.  Think of it as the Three R’s: we Relate to what we’re hearing and therefore build a context that we can Recall and Refer to later on.

As for process, I really like this chart Sarah presents, because it helps me see the pattern in storytelling:

So How Can You Move to Storyselling?
The value in this chart for me is that it demonstrates that storytelling begins with positioning – you need to know who your customer is, what problems they face, and how you solve the problems before you can tell them a story.  Once positioning is established, you move on to messaging, which is where most people “stop.”  I remember hearing Lou Hoffman, the storytelling guru, say essentially that messaging is useless in this day and age.  He posits that executives are so “trained” to parrot messages, that what they say ends up not resonating with their audiences because it sounds too “canned.” 
 
I think he’s got a point.  But messaging is still a key step to the storytelling process, because it customizes the value propositions for each audience.  It’s also an invaluable tool to communicate those value propositions within your organization, not only creating alignment among groups, but also giving the individuals in your organization the opportunity to evangelize your value to their networks.
 
Next comes  storyboarding.  If you’ve never heard of storyboarding, it’s a technique used in theater and film to visibly express a story, scene by scene.  My own belief is that it is this step that is the “missing piece.”  Okay, what do I mean by that?
 
What I mean is that traditional case studies don’t give you a story!   Not only that, they can be really boring — problem, solution, result.  Yada yada yada.  Who cares?  Especially nowadays when communications are everywhere and our attention is diverted so easily to other topics?
 
So, how does storyboarding solve that problem?
 
Storyboarding gets story tellers to think visually.  That is the missing piece, critical element or communications “chasm” to cross (to mix my metaphors).  Once you start thinking of telling your story in visual blocks, it makes you think multidimensionally — and encourages you to use multiple communications strategies to communicate your message.  This means that you gone from appealling to just the logical mind (via the written word) and extends your engagement power by introducing visuals — pictures, sequence & scene, texture, sounds.
 
More on storyboarding in my next post.
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I went to an IABC meeting last week (International Association of Business Communicators) here in Silicon Valley.  The event was a luncheon and — a surprise to me — the room was packed.  The audience was experienced communications professionals from some of the most well-known high tech companies.  The communications glitterati, if you will.

The topic was “Social Media Meets Corporate Storytelling.”  It was a great session, very interactive.  One of the speakers, Lou Hoffman, is very well known for his advocacy of Storytelling as a method of communication.  His premise, and I agree with him, is that if you can tell a story, you will engage an audience.  People will much more readily remember what you are trying to communicate if you put it in story form.

Those of you who have met me know that I am not shy.  So, I popped up during the Q&A and asked if they know of any best practices on going from “case study” to “storytelling.”  The answers I got, interestingly, were garbled.  One of the speakers said that I should encourage executives that I am training to tell stories to stick to topics that excite them.  Okay, useful.  But not a best practice.  Lou said that he has some storytelling workshops that he does and that anecdotes are under appreciated storytelling devices.

This is interesting but not what I’m trying to get to.  I want the equation.  I want the pattern.  I want the elusive thing that makes a case study into a memorable story. 

So, I’m looking into storytelling from a different perspective.  From the perspective of the script writer, the novelist, the “great communicator.”  This must translate into the business world.  I will relay what I learn in this blog.

In the meantime, I’m reaching out to my virtual network and asking you:  What makes a good story?  And do you have any storytelling best practices to share?

Can’t wait to hear from you.

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I’ve been attending a lot of Webinars and movies lately, which has made me more aware of the power of storytelling.

It’s an aspect of branding that my new book does not go in to.  My new book focuses more on the nuts and bolts, the “equation” if you will, of what and how to communicate your brand clearly.   Yes, it’s important, and if you don’t know those fundamentals, you will not be as effective in building and controlling the perception of your brand.

But storytelling adds an aspect to your brand that is irreplaceable. 

We become used to storytelling from the earliest age, when it was unimaginable to go to bed without a bedtime story.  As we grow older, we study both secular and religious literature, not simply to be well educated, but to till the fertile fields of imagination, socialization, morality and human attachment.

Great communicators understand that a concept or idea is all good and fine, but if we give that idea a context by telling a story, it helps us to remember it.  When we remember it, it’s natural to then discuss it later among peers, friends and family.  It is the context that drives the point home – context which explains and explores the multi-dimensions of any concept or idea.

As a business communicator, I frequently write about or present case studies about how company A bought company B’s product and got XYZ results.  Many of us do this on a regular basis.  But how often do we think, when coming up with one of these case studies, that what we’re doing is actually telling a story?

Would thinking of it that way change the way we wrote?  Would it make it more personal, and therefore, more memorable and maybe (gasp!) even more emotionally engaging?

It makes good business sense to ask these questions, because studies show that the purchase decision is influenced heavily by the way we feel about the purchase.  This means that emotional engagement simply can’t be dismissed when we think about how to communicate with one another about our brand value.

This it could – and should – change the way we tell our stories to one another.  In the age of “virtual” communications, where email, videos, tweets and blogs replace face-to-face communications, it’s the people who can tell stories effectively who emotionally engage their audience and will be the most effective as a result.

So how do you tell a good story?  Humm….sounds like a good question to explore in future blog posts.

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