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How Storytelling Can Spur Business Growth

by Rich Nadworny  |  
March 24, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • The business impact that great storytelling can have
  • To connect intimately with your audience
  • To monitor and gauge the efficacy of your storytelling

When you have a well-known and fabled story attached to your business, it should be easy to go out and succeed in social media, right?

For the Trapp Family Lodge resort in Stowe, Vermont, the challenge wasn't telling the old story; it was finding a way to connect the past with the present. Ultimately, the von Trapps turned to social media to tell stories of the next generation of family members, and found they could use their stories to help grow their business.

When Johannes von Trapp, the youngest son of Maria in the Sound of Music, started the transition to hand the business over to his son Sam, they turned to my firm to see how we could use online marketing. We noticed two things right away: Sam was starting to implement a lot of changes, and he was telling us stories about these changes every time we saw him.

We realized we had an opportunity but needed to put some structure around the idea of using those stories. We asked ourselves a few key questions:

  • Granted, there were a lot of changes and stories. But how could we develop a structure and format for capturing the stories from Sam and his sister Kristina (and others), and then write them in a very personalized way?
  • Once we had the stories, what channels should we use to disseminate them?
  • How would we monitor the responses the stories elicited?

The challenge for most companies isn't having a lack of stories to share—each has many. They just can't figure out a process for telling them.

For Trapp, we started by...

  • Conducting weekly interviews. Usually we had a phone call (30 minutes to an hour long) and email follow-ups with various people—resort staff and siblings Sam and Kristina von Trapp. We did interviews for 2-3 weeks.
  • Writing test stories, with style and tone variations. That led us to a writing style that was personal, direct, and easy to replicate. It "sounded" like what we heard.
  • Setting up our social channels, including a blog on the site, a Trapp Twitter account, and Facebook fan page.
  • Using free monitoring services. We didn't want to invest a lot of money in a paid service before we knew its value. We used tools like Social Oomph, BackType, Topify, and Google Alerts to monitor what people said about the Trapp Family Lodge resort.
  • Focusing on our e-newsletter as our main storytelling vehicle. With it, our stories became easier to write. We could then repurpose them to the blog and promote them on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Monitoring our email responses, Tweet stream (using CoTweet so that multiple people could tweet under the same account), and Facebook insights.

We had one of our copywriters write the first two stories, then the Trapp Family team took over and followed the style. Remember, the style was an authentic reflection of how Sam and his sister actually talked. We just translated it.

In one of our initial stories, Sam told us about a time when he was gathering sap up on a mountain to make maple syrup, when two owls attacked him. The response to this story was overwhelming. People responded, in email and on social media, as if he had told them the story personally. In another story, Sam's sister Kristina wrote about how she and her kids nursed a highland cow back to health. Again, the response was strong and immediate.

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Rich Nadworny is owner of digital marketing group Digalicious. You can read his blog and reach him via Twitter.

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  • by mmussard Thu Mar 24, 2011 via web

    So very true. In fact story telling is far more effective thatn giving speeches or boring powerpoint presentations!
    Irene Brennick teaches a great style in support of this in heer book 'Bring Your Audience to Their Feet'. She covvers things like fear, be yourself, share yourself (through stories), constantly watch your audience and learn to tailor the presentation to match their verbal or non-verbal response -- and more.
    Great article!

  • by JrCoolJ Thu Mar 24, 2011 via web

    Wow, thanks for writing this. Extremely helpful. Hope to see more from you in the future!
    all the best!

  • by Rich Nadworny Fri Mar 25, 2011 via web

    Thanks for the comments. Hope to be writing more soon JR.

  • by Barrett Rossie Mon Mar 28, 2011 via web

    Rich, thanks for sharing this with us. A great illustration that storytelling is growing ever more important as a key element of branding.

  • by linda moore Thu Apr 14, 2011 via web

    thanks, I need that!

  • by Dewane Mutunga Fri Apr 22, 2011 via web

    Great Article! I definitely agree. Stories are one of the best teaching and learning tools. Stories are how people learn. Embedded in sotries are lessons with valuable points.

  • by Stephen McArthur Sun Jun 5, 2011 via web

    Great article! I know that story tellng can make dry and boring corporate presentations come alive. This article re-inspired me!!!

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