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  • Writer's pictureShellene Drakes

Three things you need to know about storytelling

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.”

-Seth Godin, author and former dot com business executive

Seth has a great point. While we rationally make decisions to purchase or engage, many times we decide based on emotions like, “it just feels right” or “I like him—let’s go with him.”

For many organizations, building relationships and telling stories are the only ways you’ll have to engage your clients. And, I would even say before that relationship is created, you need to bring them in with something that intrigues or fascinates—which is your organization’s story.

Your story is what sets you apart from your peers. It’s what will make someone see you out versus a competitor. Your story will highlight and differentiate your organization. So how do you write your story?

Well, think about the great stories you’ve read. It was just Halloween and I was seeing The Lottery, written in 1948 by Shirley Jackson is an amazingly well-written story. Take a minute, have a read.

What do you think? Did you feel like you were in the village? Did you feel the anxiety heighten as we read and picture people heading to the black box? What other emotions did it stir up? Fear? Shock? Dread?

And what does this have to do with you telling stories for your organization and not throwing stones at people? Here are the storytelling basics that you need to know.

1) Finding something truly interesting, in our relatively mundane world, to talk about. In The Lottery life starts out at normal. Women doing their laundry, kids playing, men talking—but then something wild starts happening and that is what captures you. If the story had just meandered through a day in the life of these people with nothing interesting happening, would you have read to the end? Nope.

2) Show me, don’t tell me. Could you picture this small village? I could almost feel the slight breeze and the morning sun as people are waiting for their turn to go to the black box. Ms. Jackson set a scene that you picture as you read and it makes the story so much richer. Now, many of our organizations don’t have great scene locales, but if you’re writing about your annual general meeting, you can show the excitement of attendees or some inspirational quotes from leadership to create a picture for your readers.

3) Think about the words you are using. There was an overwhelming sense of dread in The Lottery from the first paragraph. The author manipulates your emotions with every word that she uses. Now, I’m not telling you to manipulate people, but descriptions of people, places and situations create a great story without being flowery or overdone. Not everyone tasked with writing communications will be the best writer, but take time to create a truly interesting, engaging story.

BONUS TIP: Snap photos. And I’m not talking about a line of people holding a plaque and smiling uncomfortably. What are people doing and can you get an image of them doing it? If you work in the community, get a photo of your team in the community, connecting with the people. People like action, not bad, staged images.

OK, you have the tips—how are you going to implement them to create engaging stories that set your organization apart?

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