Story? Really?

We get it. Story has become a bit of a buzzword. “We need to tell our story!” “Check us out. We have a great story!” What does story mean? What does it look like? Why does it matter?

This is written in response to a client – an engineer – who cringes when he hears “story.” He doesn’t just think buzzword. He thinks of fairy tales, science fiction, the stuff of books, movies and plays. Stories, he believes, are exaggerations, even flat out lies. He shies away from using stories in business. And he’s not alone.

So, Dear Client Who We Love and all future clients who are wondering, here is why a story matters, what a story is, and what a story isn’t.

Why Story?

Story is powerful. It’s the match that lights an emotional charge. That charge makes us jump into action, into decision, into undying love and loyalty. Why do people line up around the block to get the latest iPhone? Because iPhone tells a story about them, about the world they want to live in. When we resist using story, our match, our message, fizzles quickly…if it ever lights at all.

What a Story Isn't

A story isn’t always fiction. Documentary films are stories. One of the best books in print, Endurance by Alfred Lansing, is the true story of Shackleton’s incredible voyage to Antarctica. Anyone who sits with friends at dinner and says, “Do I have a story for you…” is about to share something real.

A story isn’t a collection of lies. Well told stories touch us, move us, and stay with us because they communicate universal truths. Even when told in imaginary worlds or through imaginary characters, we relate because we see the truth.

A story isn’t an information dump. We have heard our clients say so many times, “We have our story,” and then after a few hours with us admit, “Wow. We didn’t have a story at all.”
Story doesn’t include the words “optimize,” “maximize,” and “leverage.” You can’t string together vague platitudes about how great you, your idea, or your product is, and call it a story. When is the last time you got excited about the word, “optimize?” Exactly. Jargon has no place in storytelling.

Okay, so what is a story then?

Story is a structure you learned in grade school and a structure that has spent the last 100,000 years helping us to interpret and understand our world. It helps us to remember and decide.

Story is truth. In fact, a story requires the truth. The teller is candid, clear, and not afraid to be vulnerable. The story will speak honestly about challenge and conflict.

A story follows a hero on a journey towards a goal. The path is paved with challenge and conflict. Yes, there are ingenious solutions but without the challenge we don’t cheer for those solutions. We don’t cheer for the hero. And without the hero, we have no story at all.

A story is told in plain English, not in the commonly used buzzwords of the day. Real, every day, descriptive words are the hallmarks of a great story.

How do I use story in my business?

Our vision is for every company to inspire employees, customers and investors by telling, selling and living a true and captivating story about why they exist.

If you want to know how to craft your story and how to use story in your business, give us a call. Let’s see if our match lights your fire.

Dear Client Who We Love and future clients who are wondering, we are storytellers and we are proud to say so. And we want you to be one too.

What’s your story?