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5 Tips for great corporate storytelling.

With more technology available to help us tell stories, we’ve lost the art of crafting the content of the stories and have relied on gadgets and software to tell them for us. Here are 5 tips that can help.

1.        Know your audience.
This is not only the first rule of comedy, it’s the first rule of storytelling. If you want to connect with someone, you first have to know what they care about and craft the story with that direction in mind. The same idea can be spun numerous ways. A marketing person will want to hear how your idea connects with customers. An HR Director will want to hear about the effect on employee retention. And your left-brain CFO will want to hear about the financial implications.

2.        Start with the end in mind.
Ideas are catalysts. When executed properly, they create something. So, tell that something. If I told you that I was taking you on a road trip to Las Vegas, your ears would perk up and you’d be excited. You’d probably want to hear more and immediately jump to questions, “Where are we staying? Can we see Cirque de Soleil? Is prostitution still legal there?” But if I chose to tell you in the linear fashion that many tell stories, you’d be bored by the time I said, “We turn right and head on to the Gardiner Expressway…”

3.        Describe the characters.
Even those who tell stories will often take the no-name brand approach, using generic people. “There was this guy…” or “we once had a client…” doesn’t add any colour to a story. We already know this. Ask anyone about their grade 6 class and you get first name, last name. “There was this kid in my class, Gregory Albrecht, who smelled liked pee.” Make your characters come to life and the story will, too.

4.        Move it forward.
While details are nice, you simultaneously have to ensure that you keep the story moving forward. My mom came from a great line of Italian – Quebecois storytellers but it could be painful listening to one of hers because of the wild tangents she’d take you on. Half way through, you’d be 8 generations away from the original plot, looking for an escape hatch to bring you back to reality. Move it forward.

5.        End with what you want them to remember.
“And they lived happily ever after” is often used in fables because that’s what we want kids to remember. It’s like a tagline. There’s a reason taglines are so important in advertising. They sum up everything that preceded them. If you only remember one thing, it can be the tagline because it should summarize all the details. Even Apple, which doesn’t have a corporate tagline, always end their spots on their logo. They want you to remember, “Don’t worry. What you just saw is an Apple product so you can rest assured knowing that it’s simple, innovative and fun.”

A couple of weeks ago, I worked with 600 sales people from Allstream in an interactive exercise that had them crafting and telling stories about the organization. We even picked 3 lucky contestants to get on stage and deliver them to the room. With little time to prepare and no rehearsals, they did it brilliantly. Here’s hoping you can, too.

1 Comment

  1. Moneca Kaiser

    I experienced your presentation on branding in Ottawa this Wednesday and have enjoyed exploring your blog, especially this theme on story telling. Thank you.Seems your “brand” is about promoting honesty with a very light touch and I like that. (Rontite, helped me get this concept) I’m no lady gaga but I do like to celebrate what I would like to see more of and honesty in our corporate worlds is something I feel our world is starving for. One of my hero’s said, “it’s our stories that will heal our world,” can’t remember his name but his book is called, The Great Work, which is what I was planning on calling my book but it’s taken now. (Thomas Berry http://www.thomasberry.org/ ) Business could turn this whole mess around if they would adopt a multiple bottom line and tally up impact on people and planet with their traditional profit calculations… What they would soon discover is that when they take care of the community and environment it’s actually more profitable. Easy peasy like they say in the MBA programs, when waste =’s food like in nature you can sell it and when we take care of our communities we don’t have to advertise it’s already done. Imagine if our economic system was based on abundance rather than scarcity… That’s a story I hope we will all be telling very soon!You asked in the previous post what my favorite corporate story is and mine is Ray Anderson’s, the CEO of interface carpets who has spent most of his life as an environmental vandal… and become an advocate for a future that merges economic growth with social responsibility. (www.fastcompany.com/magazine/14/sustaing.html) This is a story I will never tire of hearing and the doc called “The Corporation” tells this story very well. (www.thecorporation.com/ ) Government always seems to have sleep in it’s eyes and smells like pee.( just between us bloggers don’t you love it when people quote you.) Government is scared of it’s own shadow and I’m scared of it too. Entrepreneurs are fearless adrenalin junkies and I suspect most of us started out as juvenile delinquents and are hard wired for philanthropy. We need to tell this story, wake up the sleeping giant cause deep down I believe entrepreneurs / business wants to make a difference, wants to make a positive contribution it’s just that we live in a culture when the only measure is profit so they got derailed. We can seduce them back from the dark side by letting them know that having a social responsibility in business will make them more money. It’s already happening and these are the stories that excite me, the stakes are high and it’s all about transformations. You can see them at http://www.livingeconomies.org/ and even right here in our nations capital at the Sustainable Enterprise Alliance that I helped found. http://www.sustainableenterprisealliance.ca/Thank you for a funny and important presentation on the importance of authenticity and integrity in our brands, I have always taken business very personally so it resonates for me. And this blog is great, I have one too and hope it’s okay to borrow your soap box sharing my story about stories. I LOVE my blog and will work this into in a future post and I would be honored if you had a peek and praised me. I love name dropping. I always wonder if these things read funny, it cracks me up every time, I get all my jokes. Thanks Rontite, it’s a pleasure to “meet” you.Moneca http://www.homecologist.com

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