Storytelling: The five components of building business stories that resonate

There’s a relentless ‘war on attention’ going on. Our attention has become a valuable currency in today’s world and everybody wants it. That's what mobile push-notifications and emails were invented for and why, if some surveys are to be believed, we touch our mobile phones hundreds or thousands of times a day.

The result? An almost unbelievable amount of daily noise in people’s lives which is making all of us much more protective of who we give our attention to, and more importantly, very unforgiving of the people and brands who waste it.

What's the best way to cut through the noise? Story.

Story is like a lighthouse during a storm that acts as a beacon for people to latch onto. Authentic storytelling is something that doesn’t waste people's attention. But how do we develop our business stories? Most of us are realising it’s important but it's not easy to do well. Here are what we at Prezi consider to be five critical components of developing your stories:

1. Story listening has to come before storytelling.

The first thing to do is to understand the stories that have already been told in your company. The founding story, the story of your employees, the stories of your customers. Some of these stories will need re-telling and some will help you to develop new ones.

Spend time interviewing lots of people inside the company and get them to tell the story of why they are passionate about what they do. Why they chose to do that job, why they decided to create the company.

This is a process that GE went through many years ago and as a result came out with videos like this that became wildly successful.

2. Tell the right kind of stories.

One the most important and subtle rules of business storytelling is to tell the stories that your audience want to hear, not the stories that you want to tell. Sometimes there can be a large gap between the two! List down what the emotional triggers are for your audiences. What do they care about? Ask lots of questions about what they feel - what do they feel about their job, their industry, their tasks etc. If a story you develop is steeped in one of these emotional triggers there is a good chance it will resonate more.

Here is a great example from Google India. Ever think you could get a video about your products seen by 13M people?! That's the power of emotion. They used the emotional trigger of the partition to great effect.

Another great example is this one from IKEA who attach the emotion of home and family to their brand. Very powerful stuff.

3. Influence your audience's memory

Even though stories are memorable, people don’t actually retain that much. We recently ran a study that shows that 80% of your content is forgotten within 2 days. So, the name of the game is to be purposeful with what you want people to remember.

How do you influence what people remember? Pick one or two key messages that you want them to retain and attach to your brand. Then repeat that message multiple times throughout your presentation or content.

Perhaps the best example of this is Steve Job’s talk at MacWorld back in 1997. He left the audience in no doubt of the two words he wanted them to remember.

4. Use a Story Structure

There is a prevailing theory that there are only 10 movies ever made. That every movie you’ve ever watched falls into one of ten story types. Don’t believe me? Read ‘Save the Cat’ by Blake Snyder which might just change your mind!

Perhaps the most famous story structure is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ which was created by Joseph Campbell. He outlined this structure in his book ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)’ which was the result of his extensive research into 2000 years of myths and legends. He found they all followed the same structure.

What is less known, is that Joseph Campbell became friends with George Lucas, of Star Wars fame and influenced the story structure of that movie and I’d wager many countless movies afterwards. Just go watch Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Exact same thing.

If you use this story structure and apply it to your business story it will make it resonate with your audience much more. It’s a process that really helps to hone your storytelling skills.

5. Context versus Content

When you look at our behaviour both online and offline, our ‘state of mind’ is very different depending on what I am doing and where. If I’m on LinkedIn then I am in professional, work mode and open to longer form content. If I’m on instagram then I’m looking for inspirational photography or short video. If I’m on Youtube then I’m looking to learn or be entertained.

What does this mean for us business storytellers? Well you need to tell the story differently on different platforms. You might have a full blown 10minute video on youtube, an inspirational prezi on, a set of black and white images on instagram and have conversations on Twitter - you need to tell the story differently on different platforms. You can’t tell it the same way on every platform. It won’t work.

View more detail in this Storytelling Prezi:


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