Unearthing a memorable or impactful story is not easy - especially for businesses. And yet within every business are dozens of stories, it just takes some work and a fresh perspective on, what seems to be, pedestrian and mundane occurrences. Then, even when you find a story, how do you position it in a way that makes your clients love you?
So often businesses see “stories” in value, experience, variety, service and expertise. Yet, these aren’t stories at all. These are claims that people make about their products and/or services that they want people to know about them. This is actually what commercials do and how do we feel about commercials these days? We fast forward through them, turn them off, turn the page or avoid them all together. On the other hand, real stories have the magnetic power of drawing in readers and viewers. Your job is to determine how best to position these stories to accomplish your objective.
An independent video producer created a wedding video for a couple who celebrated their reception at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, OK. Sure, it’s a wedding video but it’s more than that. It’s a beautiful story of a couple. This love story was not produced by Southern Hills but the club manager recently told me it began generating outdoor wedding requests immediately after it was posted. This wedding video has more than a half million views. Tell me, do you think the club would drive a half million views for a video that talks about their beautifully appointed ballroom that seats 350 people, with an exquisite pre-function area and exceptional food? Let me answer that for you - no. Instead, newly engaged couples watched this story and saw themselves in that piece and said to themselves, “I want that for me!”
One of the biggest mistakes all organizations make is they insert themselves into too many stories. As a result, people are not interested and worst yet, they don’t trust the story because it feels like a commercial. Here’s the point: Stories are about people, not products and services. A story of a ball bearing with tremendous quality never inspired anyone! Figure out the point you want to make and then find the best story, or person, who exemplifies this story. Then share that story with the world. If the alignment is apparent, people will connect the dots.
Finding Inspirational Stories
So, where do you find these business stories, right? Think of your favorite movie or book. What is it about? Typically, these stories have a star, a co-star, supporting cast, conflict and resolution. There’s usually a hero and a villain and in every instance mentioned, we’re talking about people. Not buildings, not products and not core values. So, try to identify a hero of your story.
Remember not all heroes wear a cape, so when trying to find inspirational stories, start with ordinary people with extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps they’re your people - your employees, leaders or even you! Maybe they’re your customers or business partners. Whatever the case, listen for stories that move you or make you feel something. This will require some digging and asking thoughtful questions, and when you do, the end result may surprise you. People love to share good stories, we just need to listen for them.
When it comes to communicating stories, businesses tend to do one of two things that prevent the stories from engaging the reader or viewer. First, instead of actually telling the story, they simply mention it or allude to it.
Don't turn away from the story, lean into it and tell it.
“Jim battled an illness only to bounce back and make the business better than it was”. The writer then moves on to how bottom line profit grew 25% the next year, the team morale was sky high and everything was cool! For many this is the story, when actually all they did was mention or allude to the real story - Jim had an illness. What was the illness? How severe was it? What kind of treatment did he undergo? How did his absence impact the company? How did his recovery alter his focus or leadership style? Don't turn away from the story, lean into it and tell it.
The other way we botch up engaging the reader or viewer is we make it about the company instead of the person. Forget the company. Lead with, and build, the story that draws in the viewer. If the story is properly aligned with your key messages, the viewer will clearly understand what you are trying to communicate. Too often organizations can not resist the need, desire or demand that the company be mentioned in the video. Remember, if it feels like a commercial no one will trust the message or the messenger.