Welcome to the convergence of storytelling and PR.
Our earliest childhood memories—from the time we are 3 or 4 years-old tend to revolve around stories.
As children, we remember being snuggled up in pajamas at bedtime, surrounded by bigger people and family who loved us. We asked to hear a bedtime story. It may have been from the Bible, or a family tale or Snow White. Stories are the foundation and essence of our lives and communication.
In 21st century business, people loathe one-sided advertising and messages sprinkled with jargon and rhetoric. Instead, consumers prefer to engage with brands who can clearly relate to them as human beings, on an emotional level. Brands that use storytelling as part of their marketing and branding quickly discover they are memorable—and appreciated.
Through my lengthy experience as a radio news reporter—interviewing everyone from homeless people to presidents—I understand how to craft a fabulous story that connects with human beings on an emotional level. This single skill will allow you to build rapport and trust with prospects and clients. It’s certainly helped me with blogging (I’ve been at it since 2008) and growing my business, which launched in 2000.
The bottom line: News is about people and people love great stories.
The Three-Fold Challenge
Each of us has stories that are relevant to our business and expertise. We have unique experiences than we can weave into our messages, posts, videos and social media profiles. You can—and must use your stories to get traditional PR and online attention, to connect with other human beings who can buy from you.
The problem facing most entrepreneurs with storytelling is:
1. They don’t have clarity on what constitutes a great story.
2. They don’t believe they have a story to tell.
3. They get stuck on how their story can connect back to their business.
The key right now is to uncover stories that you can intertwine it with your messaging so it resonates with potential customers. In the end, it can increase your visibility, credibility and revenues.
Now that we’re clear on why we must develop our storytelling skills, let’s look at 10 ways to uncover fabulous stories.
1. Become an “emotional archaeologist.” I approach every meeting with a prospect or client with my ‘invisible shovel’, digging away at the core of the person’s problems and challenges. It’s not an interrogation, but a conversation that is subtle and friendly. It will ultimately reveal how my company and services can help them succeed. By truly listening (not just hearing) what people are saying, I have been able to ask quality questions on a deep level. Quality questions bring quality information.
2. Break down the barriers. Business owners often compartmentalize their stories, separating the personal experiences from their work lives. To build rapport with people, they want a glimpse into your world and personality. Give them an opportunity to get to know you. Weave in your personality or mention a hobby, sport or family incident that can be related to your business and expertise. You don’t have to air your dirty laundry and family secrets, but know that fabulous storytellers share just enough to keep people interested.
3. Wake up curious. This is one of my favorite quotes from TV journalist Diane Sawyer: “Wake up curious.” Get out of bed each morning with a newfound sense of excitement of what the day will bring. This childlike trait will serve you well. People and stories are not what they appear to be. Your willingness to ask good questions and truly listen to uncover what lies beneath will bring fresh perspectives and enthusiasm for your work and life. Again, let’s connect emotionally with people. Approach each day with an open mind and an open heart.
4. Connect it back to your business. When something happens—whether it’s a conversation with your dry cleaner, an interaction you overheard in the elevator or an incident with your partner, identify the takeaway. Then think of how this one nugget links back to your expertise, clients and business.
5. Distill the message. Clarity is essential, as you won’t be able to explain your story if it’s not crystal clear in your mind. Jot down the “lessons learned” and then pick the most important one to share in your story. Write this gem on the back of your business card. If it doesn’t fit, rip it up and start again. You’ll never be able to explain it if it’s not clear, concise and compelling. One or two sentences will suffice.
6. Make sure your story is relatable, authentic and memorable. The key is to be yourself and communicate in a professional yet casual way. Forget the stuffy business language and jargon. Be conversational and focus on the reader or prospect. Stories aren’t for selling; they are for building rapport, trust and credibility. You are passing along something you experienced that your ideal audience can benefit from as a consumer and human being. How does this story or experience help someone else overcome a challenge?
7. Use metaphors. Our minds think in pictures and images, not words. That’s why visuals are in demand in social media. For example, if someone said the word ‘car’ to you, your mind will instantly pull up an image of a car, not the letters C-A-R. You may picture your dream car, your first car or your current car. Metaphors create emotional connections to other humans because they are analogies and comparisons. They speak from and to the right side of the brain. This portion of the brain handles emotion and imagination. This is where storytelling resides as well. Our logical left brain controls things like systems and processes.
8. Be prepared to write and rewrite. No one is good enough to publish their first version or draft. I’ve been writing news for 30 years and I still revise, edit and wordsmith. Storytelling is a craft—it takes practice.
9. Become “life’s little observer.” Pay attention to how others share stories. Read blog posts and watch interviews and videos of people who articulate great stories. What are the elements of a touching story and how do they pull you into it? Use some of their tactics in your business.
10. Reframe it for the news. With press releases and traditional news, you’ll notice that the best stories are the ones that have faces attached to them. That’s what news decision makers, reporters and influencers are looking for in pitches. Consider this example: If you hear a story on the news that talks about a child with cancer, it may not grab your attention or pull at our emotional heartstrings. But, when a reporter tells the story like this, it’s much more compelling: “A 9-year-old Philadelphia girl named Molly has been suffering from leukemia since last year.” Now we know Molly, she’s 9.. . from Philly….”
This is the convergence of storytelling, content development and PR. Once you practice the art of storytelling in business, you’ll be able to use it to get publicity and pitch your stories to news reporters and social media influencers. Remember, news is about people and people love great stories.
Susan Young is an award-winning news reporter, PR entrepreneur, online editor and speaker. She works with women entrepreneurs who want to get publicity and increase their visibility, credibility and revenues. Visit www.getinfrontcommunications.com.
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