Storytelling predates writing as the original method of social sharing. Thousands of years ago, people of every culture used a communal form of sharing information in the form of story. From the passing of religious beliefs in Greece to the sharing of cultural history by the African Griot, the use of story is innate. The late sociologist, Peter L. Berger said, “Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Human life is narratively rooted, humans construct their lives and shape their world into homes in terms of these groundings and memories. Stories are universal in that they can bridge cultural, linguistic and age-related divides.”
In my role as a communications consultant and media trainer, I often listen to clients express frustration in voicing their professional experience or company features and expertise; it can feel like the proverbial rabbit hole, with words spewing out and no form or end in sight. Or my favorite, the sippy cup. Quick drips and drops of information without a full and connected flow. If you know music, it’s a staccato delivery of information. I had a college professor like that. Pieces of information and facts that didn’t connect. It made retention of his information more of a challenge.
One of the many great aspects to telling a story is the method in which it connects. A well-crafted story is woven– it flows from the tongue, and it falls perfectly on the ears, making it memorable.
Fortunately, the world of business has recognized the value of this ancient ritual and has begun to replace, “corporate speak,” with the fashion and flow of story.
“Telling stories is one of the most powerful means that leaders have to influence, teach, and inspire. What makes storytelling so effective for learning? For starters, storytelling forges connections among people, and between people and ideas,” according to Harvard Business Publishing.
A clearly communicated story is the backbone of a strong marketing strategy. And the basis for your communications tactics.
An article on business storytelling in a recent issue of Forbes states “…. having purpose and values as a business sells, but to do that, they need to be communicated with a story that captures people’s attention.”
Additionally, stories can build trust, common ground, shared values and loyalty for a business and its customers or potential customers.
My first years of formal training in storytelling were as a television news reporter in the late 1970s. Bosses back then were indelicate; they had covered wars for newspapers and radio and smoked the same cigar for a week. They said things like, “there are no bad stories, just bad reporters” or, “If you write a cliché, you’re out of here.” And one tough editor proclaimed, “when you cover a fire here DO NOT use the word, ‘blaze,’ or the phrase, ‘broke out.’ Can you imagine that challenge? But I learned to look for new ways to tell recurring stories and to search for the story in pretty much any event or organization.
In media training, I often use this example of the difference between offering facts and telling a story that connects us to information. One subject, two stories: notice the difference in how you feel about each narrative version:
Example 1. Fire broke out at the Elmwood Apartments around 3am. The early morning fire has destroyed nearly half of the complex about 50 units, leaving dozens of families without shelter.
Example 2. This charred family photo album is all that is left of the Smith family’s belongings. Their unit was among 50 leveled by an early morning fire at the Elmwood apartments. Joshua Smith says his family is blessed to be safe and alive.
Similar facts, different approaches to the same story.
The process begins with strategy, where we first must become clear on our story intention and approach. It is also important to determine whether you want to focus on your marketing or public relations strategy. I borrowed this analogy from a make-up man who told me that eyebrows are not required to be identical. He said, they are sisters not twins. The same applies to marketing vs. public relations or what is also termed, strategic communications. The practices are closely related, but not the same.
- Marketing tactics are designed to sell your products or services via sales-oriented communications targeted to customers and potential customers. These tactics develop relationships with a customer base and tee up leads for the sales team.
- PR tactics are designed to build and improve your reputation, expand your influence, your position in your industry, mitigate any negatives, or to manage a public crisis. These tactics create and tell your story with PR intention and position you and your brand beyond customers.
Both disciplines are necessary for growth, and they are complementary sisters in business.
Whichever narrative you’re working on within your business, here are a few elements to begin building your story.
6 Steps to Building a Story
- Face the facts. A truthful look at your business enables you to promote your strengths and minimize weaknesses.
- Identify your audience and what they want or need from your messaging. Try to envision their perspective. What do you want to solve for or contribute? These facts lay the foundation for a theme which gives framework and body to your story.
- Determine a theme/thesis of what you want to communicate; how you want your company to be known and create a flow between those facts. Tie them together.
- Use analogies when appropriate to humanize your facts. Analogies give listeners a visual image of your message.
- Next, write several versions of your story.
- Then test the versions of your story on someone outside of your industry. Get feedback and use it to fine tune the story. If you have a group of select customers, you can also send them a survey that tests components of your new message to gauge their reactions. Their impressions can help in crafting the final version of your story.
WAV Group is a unique collection of marketing, public relations, technology and strategic professionals who can inform, craft and tell your business story in the real estate industry. The real estate story is connected to personal wealth building, the local and national economy, and the wellbeing of a citizenry. These factors prompt many from outside of the industry to tell their versions of growth stories related to real estate.
Contact us at WAV Group for a full discovery, crafting and promotion of your unique story. We can help you determine the best ways to reach your desired audiences.