We get it. Story has become a bit of a buzz word. Everyone is talking about the story. “We need to tell our story!” “Check us out. We have a great story!” You hear the word so much, what does it mean? What does it look like? Why does it matter?
This is written in response to a client – an engineer – who cringes when he hears “story.” He not only thinks buzzword. He thinks of fairy tales, science fiction, the stuff of books, movies and plays. Stories, he believes, are exaggerations, even flat out lies. He shies away from using stories in business. And he’s not alone.
So, Dear Client Who We Love and all future clients who are wondering, we want to debunk some myths around storytelling – specifically why a story matters, what a story is, and what a story isn’t.
Story is powerful. It’s the match that lights an emotional charge. That charge makes us jump into action, into decision, into undying love and loyalty. Why do people line up around the block to get the latest iPhone? Because iPhone tells a story about them, about the world they want to live in.
When we resist using story, our match, our message, fizzles quickly…if it ever lights at all.
What A Story Isn’t
A story isn’t always fiction. Documentary films are stories. One of the best books in print, Endurance by Alfred Lansing, is the true story of Shackleton’s incredible voyage to Antarctica. Anyone who sits with friends at dinner and says, “Do I have a story for you…” is about to share something real.
A story isn’t a collection of lies. Well told stories touch us, move us, and stay with us because they communicate universal truths. Even when told in imaginary worlds or through imaginary characters, we relate because we see the truth.
A story isn’t an information dump. We have heard our clients say so many times, “We have our story,” and then after a few hours with us admit, “Wow. We didn’t have a story at all.”
Story doesn’t include the words “optimize,” “maximize,” and “leverage.” You can’t string together vague platitudes about how great you, your idea, or your product is, and call it a story. When is the last time you got excited about the word, “optimize?” Exactly. Jargon has no place in storytelling.
Okay, what is a story then?
Story is a structure you learned in grade school and a structure that has spent the last 100,000 years helping us interpret and understand our world. It helps us to remember and decide.
Story is truth. A story requires the truth. That means the teller is candid, clear, and not afraid to be vulnerable. The story will speak honestly about challenge and conflict.
A story follows a hero on a journey towards a goal. The path is paved with challenge and conflict. Yes, there are ingenious solutions but without the challenge we don’t cheer for those solutions. We don’t cheer for the hero. And without the hero, we have no story at all.
A story is told in plain English, not in the commonly used buzzwords of the day. Real, every day, descriptive words light up the brain’s major centers: motor, sensory, cognitive, and emotional and they do it by painting mental pictures.
How do I use story in my business?
Our vision is for every company to inspire employees, customers and investors by telling, selling and living a true and captivating story about why they exist.
If you want to know how to use story in your business, give us a call, have a conversation, and see if our match lights your fire.
Dear Client Who We Love and future clients who are wondering, we are storytellers and we are proud to say so. And we want you to be one too.
For 40 seconds of great storytelling, check out “The Hammer” from GE…a place where a lot of engineers work 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcZHGonRF28