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How Marketers Can Be Effective Business Storytellers (And Why They Should Be)

by Bree Baich  |  
March 20, 2018

Want to know a secret? A lot of business success can be attributed to the unwitting storytellers among us: leaders who passionately narrate their visions to inspire change; account reps who conceptualize products or services through real-life examples; trainers who design engaging, scenario-based learning...

A simple example of the power of story: I was recently cruising along an empty Texas road, singing along to the song on the radio, when the song ended and an announcer said, "Buying a house is exciting, and by 'exciting' I mean 'terrifying.'" Anyone who's traveled the road to home ownership could instantly feel those words—because it is a little terrifying to buy a house. The announcer's narration evoking the buyer's perspective had me tuned in and wanting more.

That's the secret to storytelling success: the ability to convey personalized nuggets up front to gain someone's attention, followed by a well-designed narrative that drives action. A good story makes us feel something, and in business that can be transformative.

Stories that allow us to relate to each other and share common experiences are the most influential because we, the audience, can see ourselves in those stories. And those relatable nuggets can come from anywhere.

For instance, it may seem odd to use Madonna as an example of digital transformation, but that's what McKinsey did in a recent article about business transformation. Stories, especially those based on relatable metaphors and analogies, remove obstacles that block one's ability to grasp complex ideas. Likewise, if your narrative reveals how an idea makes someone's job easier or increases revenue, your recommendation becomes the obvious solution.

Getting Started

Not sure how to get started? A simple formula is to focus on ACE:

  • Audience: Who is your desired audience? At the core, storytelling requires a firm understanding of your audience—who they are and why they should care. The key to uncovering more about the audience is directly related to the skill of listening.
  • Channel: Where do they navigate for information? Although channel is typically viewed as how you'll deliver a story (e.g. live, YouTube, digital dashboard), it will also guide you to the technology you'll use to design the narrative—and determine resources required to do both.
  • Emotion: How will you make them care? Getting your audience to feel something will instantly connect them to your story. That's why storytelling is both an art and a science.

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Bree Baich is principal learning and development specialist at SAS Best Practices, a thought leadership organization at SAS Institute.

LinkedIn: Bree Baich

Twitter: @BreeBaich

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  • by Becky Tue Mar 20, 2018 via web

    I always try to think about the audience's perspective and what they can get out of what I am speaking about -- and then I tell them in a story. Great article; thank you!

  • by Ian Williams Wed Mar 21, 2018 via web

    It's incredible the power of storytelling had such an effect on you while you were driving in your car alone through Texas. Without seeing anything, the announcer was able to connect with you through his words. Loved how you used this example in your best practices, in an overly cluttered communication landscape, good stories break through. This post --%3E ( explains why those who tell stories rule the world. Thanks for sharing Bree.

  • by Bree Baich Wed Mar 21, 2018 via web

    Thanks for taking the time to pass along your thoughts, Becky and Ian.

    Becky, you've got the right approach. An audience should always be front and center. Otherwise we're telling stories with no real purpose.

    And I loved your comment about "good stories break through," Ian. It's spot on!

  • by Luzette Pressley Thu Mar 22, 2018 via mobile

    Love this, full of information

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