Telling your company's story is essential to persuading stakeholders. Here are three surprising ways storytelling will also help boost your brand.
Why should your company tell stories?
Storytelling resonates with listeners—including prospects, customers, and clients—in ways that delivering raw information can’t equal. Stories engage and excite. Powerful narratives can not only persuade but also inspire. And if you’re a corporation, they can help people think of your organization in more human terms.
So telling stories should be a key component of how you build your brand.
Speaking emotionally is a vital skill in your ability to activate listeners. Do you focus on delivering information instead of engaging audiences? Discover how to enrich your relationship with the people in the seats! Download my essential cheat sheet, “5 Ways to Captivate an Audience.”
How can you incorporate storytelling into the pitches, talks, and presentations you make on behalf of your company? I’d like to share with you an exercise that I developed for that very purpose and that I use in my group training. You can use this activity not only to get your staff on the storytelling wavelength, but also to boost the cohesion and effectiveness of your teams.
Getting Your Employees to Share Their Stories
One of the advantages of this storytelling exercise is that it can be done with any size group. If the group you’re working with is large, simply create “rounds” of 5 or 6 people. The members of those smaller groups will share their stories only within the group (though you should debrief afterwards with everyone involved). A benefit of working this way is that the groups work concurrently, saving an enormous amount of time.
When your groups have been determined and everyone is ready, tell the participants that each person will be telling the rest of their group a 2-3 minute story. (If you think you need to sell the benefits of storytelling for your business, take a look at why effective presentations depend upon stories.) Each person gets to choose from one of these two topics you'll display on a PowerPoint slide:
- “What gets me out of bed in the morning.” Or
- “A moment that changed my life.”
Allow 5-10 minutes for everyone to think of what they want to say on either topic, taking notes if they want to. Explain that after each person speaks, the rest of the group will tell the storyteller what their own response is to what they just heard.
Below are the results that emerge, all three of which can help you boost your brand through storytelling.
#1 Storytelling Creates an Emotional Response in the Storyteller
Get ready for some surprised employees, as participants grasp how telling stories elicit strong emotions in their own hearts and minds. There's no doubt about those responses because the storytellers voice them out loud as they're speaking.
Also, I circulate as the stories are being told, taking notes of what I’m hearing. Together, the speakers' stories and the listeners' responses hold a strong emotional charge. It's a powerful reminder of why emotion matters in public speaking. Laughter, tears, expressions of amazement, and other visceral responses occur from responses like these:
- How the speaker developed confidence and self-awareness through the events they describe.
- The deep emotions brought to the surface again by remembering a loved one.
- New and surprising information about the speaker that group members learn.
- How people met the love of their life and want to share that with the group.
- Challenges and crises that an individual or a team faced.
- Why openness and honesty is a game-changer.
- How a turning point was reached personally or professionally.
#2 Storytelling Facilitates Teamwork and Common Goals
Another revelation that often emerges from the storytelling exercise: even members of a team don’t always work as a team in ways that foster business goals. Take the marketing department of even a mid-sized company, for instance. Within that department, people work in their own silos depending upon their specialty, and they may not even know the other members of the team very well. For more on team effectiveness, here are 5 ways to improve your company's team's presentations.
But when people share their experiences and feelings about what they love doing or a moment that changed them forever they share something quite special with the rest of the team. Because of that sharing—and also as a result of others’ reactions—they understand how basic human responses are more powerful than mundane activities and clever slogans. The lesson is clear: tap into that kind of emotional response to build and grow your brand.
For in the end, aren’t you all about enriching people’s lives through honestly offering the best product or service you’re capable of?
#3 Storytelling Helps Your Company Tap Into Customers’ Emotions
The connection between storytelling and a company’s brand becomes clear in the debriefing I conduct after everyone has spoken. First, I share with the whole group some of what I heard as I listened to the storytelling and group members’ responses.
More important, though, is the question I ask next: “Can you use the lessons you’ve just learned in telling stories about your company or its customers?” It isn’t the specific stories that count, of course. It’s the level of honesty and openness that resulted. Most of all, it’s the realization that telling human stories that tap into emotions is an approach that will set your company apart.
This exercise, that is, can teach your team about what really reaches people and stays with them. As they talk about not only what your company offers, but what it can mean to people’s lives, they’ll be connecting with stakeholders in ways that are both more basic and more elevating. After all, a purchase is one thing; changing people’s perceptions is another.
A special thanks to you, Steve Jobs.
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