Storytelling is not just for fiction authors these days.
Increasingly, businesses and brands are using the power of story to engage people. If you write non-fiction, then you can use story to bring life to your books … and your marketing. In this article, Melissa Addey, author of The Storytelling Entrepreneur, explains how.
Over the past decade, storytelling has become part of the communication toolkit of even the most corporate of businesses. Here’s why:
- Stories improve recollection of information, so if you want people to remember what you say, frame it in a story.
- Stories create a sense of involvement and community, so if you want to create a loyal fan base of customers, tell them stories.
- Stories create motivation and enthusiasm for learning, so if you are trying to pass on knowledge, do it through a story.
Stories work: and who better to harness the power of stories than writers? Here are five great ways you can use stories in your business:
1) Selling your books
People absolutely love to know how art gets made. I spoke with Skylark Galleries, an artists’ collective who have galleries on the South Bank in London. They said that people browsing the artworks were always asking about what inspired the artist, or how a particular piece came to be made. The items with interesting stories behind their creation sold more readily than those without.
I spoke with Skylark Galleries, an artists’ collective who have galleries on the South Bank in London. They said that people browsing the artworks were always asking about what inspired the artist, or how a particular piece came to be made. The items with interesting stories behind their creation sold more readily than those without.
This is something to bear in mind when selling your own creative works: can you sell the story of the work as well as the item itself?
Joanna shares snippets of how she does her fiction research on www.JFPenn.com, including travel videos from interesting destinations. I have a trip planned to Beijing to research my next historical novel set in the 1700s, so you can guess the kinds of images I could bring back for my next newsletter!
If you want to see proof of stories selling objects, visit the Significant Objects Project, a brilliant repeated experiment where writers are asked to create a story about random objects bought from thrift stores for a couple of dollars. The items are then re-sold on eBay with the story attached (making it very clear it is fiction) and the price paid for each object ends up being 30-40 dollars on average.
Make sure your creative works are seen as significant to potential buyers.
2) Engaging with your customers
Sharing stories is a two-way street, so actively encourage your readers to tell you their stories. Examples could include: What are their favorite books in your genre and why? What era do they love in history? What do they struggle with in their daily lives (for non-fiction)?
You could run a survey or a quiz, perhaps even with a nice prize up for grabs. There are a few food companies who do this very well, for example by asking customers for their testimonials and photos and then printing those on their packaging. Could you use a customer’s name in one of your books?
By hearing their stories, you connect more deeply with them. (Oh, and you get your customer research done by gaining a better understanding of your target audience!).
3) Communicating on social media
Social media works best when your brand acts as a consistent ‘character’ in how it responds and communicates. So make sure you have a consistent tone and way of behaving. This works best when you are being yourself, rather than ‘pretending’ to be someone that you are not just because you think it fits your genre better.
You can go one step further and give some of your characters social media accounts. They don’t even have to be modern characters: there are multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts supposedly belonging to the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey: with close on 100,000 followers between them, since her acerbic style of speaking and contrast with the modern era fits social media beautifully. A missed opportunity by the TV channel’s communications team, who should have thought of it first!
4) Creating your own creative and or business vision
You can’t make the most of your business and creative ideas if you don’t have a direction to head in. You need a compelling vision of what lies ahead of you so that you can write a practical business plan to take you there. Your vision is a story and the more powerful and realistic you can make it the more committed you’ll be to it and the more accurate your business planning can be to get you there.
Take the time to craft a truly spellbinding story for yourself.
Use all your senses and perhaps even create props to inspire you. I saw an exquisite photograph years ago and said that when I was a full-time writer I would have it on my wall. When the moment came I remembered my promise to myself and ordered the photograph. It sits above my desk, a reminder that part of my vision has come true. Want an Oscar for screenwriting? Buy a golden statuette for your desk to inspire you!
5) Facing bad times
We all face bad times or moments of confusion, when we are uncertain about the journey we are on and whether it’s heading in the right direction.
This is a time when you need to re-frame your own personal story, the one you tell yourself about what you are doing and who you are.
Open up your view to a wider image: see this difficult time as just a small step in the larger and more positive whole journey. Use the structure of fairy tales to consider: is now a moment of trial to make you stronger as a character? Is it a moment to ask for or accept help from another person?
Is it a time to choose a new path to follow – and what traits or tools will you need to stock up on to take it?
Storytelling in a business context has been proven as a powerful tool and as a creative person, you are perfectly placed to make the most of it in your entrepreneurial endeavors. Happy storytelling!
Do you have any questions or comments to make about how to use storytelling in business? Please do leave a comment and join the conversation below.
Melissa Addey wrote The Storytelling Entrepreneur while the Writer in Residence British Library. It details how you can use storytelling skills at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey, as well as how to find stories within your business and how to communicate your values more authentically.
Melissa lives in London with her husband and two little children who love books as much as she does. If you’d like to try her writing, visit www.melissaaddey.com/free