Skip to content

Storytelling: Expectations versus reality


Whether you surf the internet, peruse the Amazon best-seller lists or scroll through your email, it seems the marketing buzzword you’ll find most often these days is “storytelling.”

And who doesn’t love storytelling? In western culture, many of us grew up with a parent or some other trusted adult cracking the spine of a favorite tale and beginning with those magical words, “Once upon a time…”

The difference today is that an entire class of “marketing experts” is redefining the meaning of business storytelling in ways that barely resemble the concept of a great narrative with a true beginning, middle and end.

There are experts who can teach you to stand on a stage and tell “transformative” stories that “disrupt.” There are experts who will create six-second video stories for you. There are experts who promise “insanely actionable storytelling tips and tricks” that you can download (for free!) and then apply right away!

I’m not judging the value of those experts or what they have to teach you.

I am saying that focusing on storytelling techniques first fixates on the glitter while ignoring the gold. The latter is the story you most need to share – the one that answers the questions of why someone should buy from you, work for you, invest in you or partner with you.

So let’s match storytelling expectations versus reality: You need to have a story worth sharing before you decide to pack it into six seconds or use it to disrupt anything.

The good news is that you have such a story. At WordWrite, we call it your Capital S Story.

No doubt, storytelling is the most powerful tool in your marketing toolbox. It’s the only communication approach that’s hardwired into our brains over millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of cultural perfection. Unlike most other marketing “strategies,” storytelling is self-contained. No batteries are required, because storytelling success happens in the minds of those you most hope to reach. Storytelling is the only mass communication medium that, done well, is 100 percent an inside job.

Regardless of your role in the organization you serve — founder, CEO, communication or marketing professional, sales, etc. — that organization had a story long before it had a brand or a logo or a brochure or tagline.

The power of all of those business tools derives directly from the Capital S Story. The important step once you know your story is to share it in a way that’s unique, memorable and compelling. That involves aligning your unique story with classic story archetypes and story anchors to leverage what we call synaptic shortcuts. Simply put, synaptic shortcuts and archetypes make your organization’s story easy to remember and compelling to those you most want to reach.

What’s a savvy business leader supposed to expect from all the storytelling buzz these days? We’ve learned that there are three elements that deliver storytelling success in two decades of working with clients:

First, understand that if the so-called “expert” isn’t focused on helping you share the story that most defines your organization — your authentic Capital S Story — that the effort to engage in storytelling will never be as successful as it could be.

Second, don’t mistake “performing” as a storyteller with whether your organization has a story worth sharing. Let’s face it, the universe of those who can command a stage and deliver a story in a Moth-like environment is somewhat limited. At WordWrite, we call those individuals “fluent storytellers,” and make no mistake, your story needs them. But before you start thinking about tips, tricks and techniques, you need to think about your story. Without an authentic story worth sharing, your fluent storyteller is not delivering ROI, he or she is merely delivering entertainment.

And speaking of ROI, a crucial reason why storytelling is so powerful is that ROI is baked in. In classic literature, you might call this the moral of the story, or the lesson to be learned. In business storytelling, we call it the call to action. By sharing your authentic Capital S Story, you are engaging your audience and providing the answers to those questions I shared earlier: why they should buy from you, work for you, invest in you or partner with you.

And in business, the answers to those questions are the ones that lead to success.

Want to learn more about our take on storytelling? Click here or contact me directly. Feel free to share your own storytelling take in the comments – and thanks for reading.

Leave a Comment