What is Storytelling?
Storytelling is the process of using fact and narrative to communicate something to your audience. Some stories are factual, and some are embellished or improvised in order to better explain the core message.
Storytelling is an art form as old as time and has a place in every culture and society. Why? Because stories are a universal language that everyone — regardless of dialect, hometown, or heritage — can understand. Stories stimulate imagination and passion and create a sense of community among listeners and tellers alike.
Telling a story is like painting a picture with words. While everyone can tell a story, certain people fine-tune their storytelling skills and become a storyteller on behalf of their organization, brand, or business. You might’ve heard of these folks — we typically refer to them as marketers, content writers, or PR professionals.
Every member of an organization can tell a story. But before we get into the how, let’s talk about why we tell stories — as a society, culture, and economy.
Why Do We Tell Stories?
Right now, I want to discuss why we choose storytelling over, say, a data-driven PowerPoint or bulleted list. Why are stories our go-to way of sharing, explaining, and selling information?
Stories solidify abstract concepts and simplify complex messages.
We’ve all experienced confusion when trying to understand a new idea. Stories provide a way around that. Think about times when stories have helped you better understand a concept … perhaps a teacher used a real-life example to explain a math problem, a preacher illustrated a situation during a sermon, or a speaker used a case study to convey complex data.
Stories help solidify abstract concepts and simplify complex messages. Taking a lofty, non-tangible concept and relating it using concrete ideas is one of the biggest strengths of storytelling in business.
Stories bring people together.
Like I said above, stories are a universal language of sorts. We all understand the story of the hero, of the underdog, or of heartbreak. We all process emotions and can share feelings of elation, hope, despair, and anger. Sharing in a story gives even the most diverse people a sense of commonality and community.
In a world divided by a multitude of things, stories bring people together and create a sense of community. Despite our language, religion, political preferences, or ethnicity, stories connect us through the way we feel and respond to them … Stories make us human.
Stories inspire and motivate.
Stories make us human, and the same goes for brands. When brands get transparent and authentic, it brings them down-to-earth and helps consumers connect with them and the people behind them.
Tapping into people’s emotions and baring both the good and bad is how stories inspire and motivate … and eventually, drive action. Stories also foster brand loyalty. Creating a narrative around your brand or product not only humanizes it but also inherently markets your business.
The Framework for Storytelling.
So here is a 3-part framework you can easily apply to your next email campaign:
Part 1: The world before
In the first part, your goal is to paint a picture of the reader’s world as it was.
For example: It used to be so easy to reach and engage your target customers. There were a few forms of media, and you could easily deliver your message to the masses.
Part 2: The drama
In the second part, the goal is to show the drama that created a shift in the reader’s world.
For example: But then it all changed. Your competitors started sending more emails, posting more status updates, and sending more tweets, and it became much harder to get your message heard through all the noise.
Part 3: The resolution
In the third and final part, the goal is to show them how your product can be a resolution to the drama and how their world can be good once again.
For example: But by telling a great story in your email campaigns you can engage your target customers in a way nobody else is, helping you stand out above the noise and drive sales.
Storytelling is a trial-and-error process, and no one tells a story perfectly on the first try. So, keep trying.