How to use the powerful art of storytelling to share your business story

Want to spread the word about your business? Find out why telling a story is so much more powerful, and who to write your business story. 

Storytelling is as old as time itself. As a race, humans have evolved to respond to stories, and they have become an important aspect of our culture.

It therefore stands to reason that telling people a story creates a reaction. Think of it as taking their spark of interest from a flame to a fire. A story evokes an emotional journey and the message is made memorable.

Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts

It is for this reason that business owners can make storytelling work so well. Research by Stanford University revealed the fascinating reasons why stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.

If you give a powerpoint presentation, your audience will experience a reaction in the part of the brain that processes language. Called Broca’s area, it’s the part of our brain that decodes language into meaning.

If you tell your audience a story, as well as their language-processing centre being activated, any other area in their brain that they would use when experiencing the events of the story is also activated. The sensory cortexes kick in when sounds, smells and activities are mentioned.

Evolution has wired our brain for storytelling. It creates chemistry in us and means that people are far more likely to be ‘persuaded’. And that makes it a ‘must do’ for marketing your business.

What is storytelling?

As a freelance copywriter, I’m often asked to write stories that illustrate a business and to encourage people to buy products or services. Often, people stumble to do this for themselves because they look too literally for a story that fits. If they find any stories at all, which is unlikely, they will probably be fairly dry and uninteresting.

However, with a little bit of thought and planning, storytelling can easily be styled to fit with your business narrative.

What’s your story?

Your story could be:

  • The provenance behind your brand or product – these days organic, local, family invention/business are popular.
  • Your personal leadership or motivational story– for example, a personal experience that led to you starting your business.
  • Your brand strategy story – how do you see your business changing the world in the future?

Storytelling can be used, to a greater or lesser degree, across all your marketing materials. The best channels to use for a little more creative license are blogs, social media campaigns and, sometimes, marketing campaigns.

Storytelling will work on certain pages of your website too, such as ‘about me’ or when providing the detail of the products and services you offer. (Read how to write your about me page.)

Why you need to find a trusted writer – a story

Here’s a quick story to illustrate the importance of outsourcing to a copywriter you can trust.

Imagine my clients’ horror if they used the guy who won the contract to provide Chinese subtitles for a French film. Halfway through the film, the audience would see the following words appear on the screen: “I don’t understand French. All the previous subtitles were made up and I’m not making up any more…”

So, that’s not quite copywriting but it does show the importance of outsourcing to someone you can trust and whom you know has the experience required.

Let’s focus on the last sentence of the paragraph above. “So, that’s not quite copywriting but it does show the importance of outsourcing to someone you can trust and whom you know has the experience required.”

That, in the writing trade, is called a “bridge”. And this technique, hooks and bridges, is how you can relate any story you like to your business.

How to use hooks and bridges

By using a bridge, an anecdotal story can be tweaked to fit whatever message you want to get across. It doesn’t need to be long and time-consuming, in fact, far better if it isn’t.

But, a word of warning: Have you ever heard the saying “you can lead a horse to water…..” Well, there’s never a guarantee that your storytelling will be interpreted correctly:

In 1995, a man called McArthur Wheeler robbed two banks in Pittsburgh with lemon juice smeared all over his face. When the police showed him the CCTV images that led to his capture, he was astounded. He’d read that lemon juice was used in invisible ink and therefore surmised that his face would be invisible to the cameras.

That’s the power of storytelling, right there.

Four tips for successful storytelling

  1. Don’t get bogged down finding a story ‘relevant to your industry’.
  2. Package up the key details to keep it short and snappy. You’re looking to create a memory, not tell a bedtime story.
  3. Now you have your hook, look for an appropriate bridge.
  4. Follow your bridge with your key message.

For more copywriting hints and tips, visit the My Word blog.