Corporate storytelling, simplified. What is it, and why do people love stories so much? What are the key ingredients of an engaging narrative, and how can businesses untap the potential of a powerful story?
Humans have been avid storytellers (and story-consumers) since the dawn of society. Well before the first writing systems appeared, storied were created and shared orally or visually (using paintings, incisions, and other forms of graphic representation).
Why do we love stories?
Stories do not only satisfy the human needs for entertainment and sharing.
They also serve as a mean to transmit knowledge, lessons learned, social and cultural values and rules.
Moreover, stories challenge our views and opinions: as we empathise with the characters, we step outside our own shoes and look at profound human emotions and common situations from a different angle.
By making connections between the contents of the story and our own experiences and background, we develop new ideas and broaden our understanding of the inner self.
All with the added value of being in a "safe space" (the narrative), where learning from other people's experiences does no harm.
Recent studies have also shown that reading stories (fiction) fosters inclusiveness and empathy towards others; and that our brain reacts to stories pretty much like it does to real-life situations.
Looking at it all, it makes no wonder that companies, big and small, are looking at storytelling as a mean to create deeper connections with their audiences and customers.
Business storytelling: a definition
Simplifying, we can define business storytelling (aka corporate storytelling) as the use of business stories to connect with prospects, partners, clients.
Basically, you use your professional story and experiences to deliver information about who's behind your company name, what does your brand stand for, what you achieved so far etcetera.
This form of communication can support your brand identity, foster trust, and promote customer loyalty.
What makes a good story?
Truth is, it all boils down to a few key features:
- a clear theme and message
- a vivid scenario, and strong characters
- a coherent plot.
Corporate storytelling doesn't differ much.
Whether it's business-related or pure fiction, a good story needs to keep readers engaged, speak to the audiences in a language they can understand and relate to, and end with some sort of resolution / bottom line.
There's something else, though. Good business storytelling should be able to answer one simple question: what's in it for me as a customer?
To see how this translates in real life, here's one of the best examples of corporate storytelling I've stumbled on lately.
As you can see, this TV commercial for Western Sydney University (as part of their Unlimited campaign) has it all: an emotional narrative, a clear message, a strong character.
Plus, it manages to drive the message home.
This is what we do. This is what we stand for. This is what's in it for you.
The bottom line
Business storytelling is powerful. It untaps the communication potential of a good story and integrates it in the broader context of brand awareness, marketing, and corporate communication.
Effective business stories are around us, every day. They could be an anecdote about a business experience that changed your views, or a longer narrative that talks your customers through your history and success.
Regardless of their length and individual theme or message, good business stories share the same characteristics we value in other narrative forms. Plus, they clarify what benefits or experience you can offer to your customers, partners, and collaborators.