Pretty much as long as we’ve been able to make fires, humans have gathered around them to tell stories. In the beginning, we wove powerful tales, trying to explain the world around us in a way we could understand. We imagined our futures together, we put the words of our legends to songs, and we painted our stories on cave walls.
Even today we grow up on stories. When we’re young, we listen to bedtime fairy tales. We gather around the family table, or on the sofa around a photo album, to hear anecdotes. We’re programmed to reach out to one another. And there’s no more ancient and time-honored way to do it than the ancient tradition of storytelling.
Maybe that’s why we still understand stories innately, why we can connect with them so easily. A good story sends us back to that feeling of beinghome. It grabs hold of us and makes us lean in to hear more.
Stories are great. But do they have a place in business?
There are lots of products and services out there. No matter where you turn, you’re practically drowning in advertisements. There are new businesses sprouting up every day.
In the midst of all that chaos, there’s a simple truth: your business has to stand out. It has to connect. Because that’s the difference between success and being just another business failure statistic.
In their natural state, people just don’t care about your brand. It’s hard to trust a faceless entity; that’s just a fact. The thing that helps your audience overcome this indifference is the connection your brand makes with them.
Storytelling is what lets you do that. Through narrative, you can give your brand a face. Sharing real-life anecdotes and emotional journeys helps them feel connected to you. It allows them to see you as authentic.
And this communication goes beyond what we do with quantitative graphs, bulleted lists, and charts. Stories touch on our emotions: they inspire us, challenge us, delight us, teach us. We understand the story on an emotional level—and that’s where the true connection lies.
What kinds of stories should you be telling?
When you stare at your blank paper wondering how to begin, start by imagining all those stories we used to tell around a fire. Start with the reasons we’ve always used narratives: to communicate our past, present, and future.
Teach your company’s origin story, how you came to be. Paint a picture of your mission statement. Share why you’re so passionate about what you do. Tell a story about what you’re working on or a successful past project. Illustrate your why, what, who, how, when, where. Chronicle your brand’s journey from point A to point B, being honest about the challenges you saw.
How do we use storytelling as a business?
Don’t be afraid to get creative—there’s a lot of room for stories in the world. Try using one in a pitch or a sales call. Use one to build up your company culture, to power your videos, or in a conference presentation.
As you brainstorm, make sure you’re telling narratives with a clear meaning. In other words, your audience should understand why you told it, what you want them to know, and the emotional core of the message. It’s that emotion, in addition to the info you’ve communicated, that powers the audience to take the next steps.
Finally, don’t forget the key of storytelling: be authentic. People innately understand when they’re being manipulated, and they’re wary of companies that might be taking advantage of them. So tell your story, and tell a true one. Be vulnerable, be honest, and take them on your authentic journey.
Stories are powerful tools for any business—and for any human. The next time you’re looking for a way to connect, to build trust, and to appeal to your audience, try using the time-honored tools of imagination and emotion.