It was a great pleasure to be on stage at Social RecruitIn with Eamon Collins, Group Marketing Director for Page Group, and Paul Farrer, Founder and Chairman of Aspire presenting on how to build an engaging digital strategy.

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Before we could write we told stories.

Oral tradition – or the original stories – was how we passed on messages, shared experiences, educated future generations and created what would one day become known as history.  In illiterate communities around the world there still remains a strong oral tradition where the elders educate youths through stories.

Old relaxed man, looking through glasses, Varanasi Benares India

In his research paper historical psychologist Dr Hodge states that “storytelling typically [took] place in a relaxed and nonthreatening environment. Customarily, the setting [was] a quiet place where everyone [could] comfortably sit.”

Today people today listen, read and watch stories everywhere: in their homes, their offices or their local Starbucks.  Stories are weaved through everything we do, and we tell stories to everyone we meet.   What we tell, and how we tell these stories defines us.

Who would you want to sit next to at a dinner party?  Who would you make your best-man?  Who would you call when you are bored?  The person who tells the best stories.

Even looking back at the word “Story” tells us something…

The entomology of the word History comes from the Greek “histor” for “learned wise man” and then evolved into “historia” which meant “narrative”.  Later through Latin it became the word we use today: “history”.   The origins of the word “Story” come from Middle English where it was used to denote “a historical account”.

The number one reason for telling stories is that they have the ability to be remembered.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Rudyard Kipling

Stories last. 

Long after we have forgotten the data points, the slides, the general content, we still remember the stories.  In fact people interviewed after presentations almost always remember the stories and only one or two pieces of data.

Before we could write, we drew pictures.

We found that drawing the message helped to make it memorable, and we could save that content for longer.  Aboriginal art is some of the earliest forms of storytelling in art.

aboriginal art work
Our minds are pretty simple and we still react more positively to images than we do to the written word.  They say a picture says a thousand words – well it can.

The way we use stories and images allow us to drive people to action.   In her book Resonate, LinkedIn Influencer Nancy Duarte talks about this at length.   If your story resonates with your audience you will get them to do something.   Like waves on an ocean you can make the listener go up, or go down, backwards, or forwards.

resonate

Most importantly we help other to tell our stories for us.  Social media has made the sharing and passing on of stories easier than ever.  In exactly the same way people had stories to share their message, their values and their visions – today businesses have stories to tell.   The stories we tell as businesses dictate how much we sell, the loyalty of our customers and the growth we experience over time.


 

To make it easy I’ve come up with 5 stories that we should all be able to tell – as individuals, but also as businesses.

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • My mission
  • What I do
  • What that means for you

Who am I?

This should be an introduction to you or your business.  It is essential that it is easy to tell across multiple channels and be as relevant on the homepage of your website, your LinkedIn company page as it is being told over the phone by your recruiter.  Every person in your business needs to know this inside out.

Why am I here?

What is the purpose of this conversation or this content that you are making me read?  What are you trying to achieve?  Be up front about the objective.

My Mission.

Explain what you / your business stands for.  This is your values and your mission statement as well as your motivations.

What I do.

Your mission should be more “why” and this is more “how”.   Find your USP – your unique selling proposition and explain it to your audience.

My colleague Eelco recently said that we should no long use the term USP.   Instead we should discuss the UBR – the unique buying reason; the reason that people buy instead of the reason we sell.

What that means for you.

Complete the circle and give case studies and testimonials.  It is essential that you have success stories that demonstrate how you have achieved your mission through what you do.

The Five Stories


In practice how can we do this?
Imagine that each of these stories moves your audience from a place where they don’t know you to a place where they are ready to do business with you.  Take them on this journey through the stories you tell.

the five stories

To give you an example of how I’ve used this in the past, here is how I raised money when running a marathon earlier this year…

Meet Seb.  He is trapped behind a lamp post.  The first story I told was about being a dad… now I know that everyone who knows me knows that I am a dad, however sometimes people need a reminder.  I wanted to increase the likelihood of people seeing my future updates and engaging with them and we know that engagement today – a like or a comment – reduced the friction for future engagement.  Facebook has a system called Edgerank which means that if I generate interactions from my posts my other posts are more likely to come up in my friends’ feeds in the future.

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I then sent out an email (click here for the full email) explaining that my son, from the previous picture, had a favorite film: the Jungle Book.  When the book was written there were over 10 million elephants word-wide.  Today there are around 600,000.  I was going to run a marathon to raise money so that my son could grow up in a world with elephants and so could his kids.

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Then I shared my charity Just Giving page that cemented the “Why” with more information on poachers and a few videos from the BBC talking about poachers.

just giving
How was I going to do this?  By running.  So I updated all of my profile pictures across social media to a picture of me running a half marathon for charity the previous year and shared these images across the net.

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Then I closed the loop by explaining how this would help.  I then told a story about Raj, a 70 year old blind elephant I met in an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka which was funded by charities like the one that I was running for.

At each step I told a story that made it personal, that could be related to and that would resonate.

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This campaign – and do consider this to be a campaign – helped me to raise over £3,000 for charity without having to beg and pester.  I was able to take people from not being aware of my aim, to a point where they would happily donate to a charity I cared about.

Every business should know the stories they want to tell and how they want to tell them.  Look at your business and establish how you can use these to your advantage.


Watch the video here…

Below are the slides from the presentation that I gave…