Stories bring a brand to life, connect with people at an emotional level, boost brand and employee engagement, and work their magic for SEO. Storytelling is a clichéd word, unfortunately. But at its heart, its strength as a powerful weapon remains, waiting to be unlocked.
The challenge that every marketer and communications person faces is, how do you generate a steady stream of interesting, relevant, and compelling stories? People quickly get tired of reading generic fluff. Emails get marked as spam by automatic rules and you lose the chance to make a lasting connection.
I’ve found that the secret to finding great stories is not about the brand or its activities, it is about the story seeker and the personality qualities that they just can’t shake off, which make storytelling a habit.
Three habits of highly successful story seekers that form a virtuous cycle:
Conversing with everyone, all the time
Communication professionals have the rare advantage of being able to access anyone, anytime. Anyone in the company is happy to converse with a comms person, hoping it translates into an article or a mention, or to know a bit more about what’s going on. I’m personally not a scintillating conversationalist, and can’t enthral people with my adventures, so I learned to keep a conversation going by asking the other person many questions. Walking the halls asking random employees what they are working on, eating lunch with different groups of people at the cafeteria, and even strolling the garden and talking to security guards can lead to some golden nuggets that become great stories, photos, and viral moments. Talking to salespeople on the field, project managers at sites, and customer-facing staff gives a view of the real challenges that you can build on for effective marketing content, or a strong pipeline into case studies, customer testimonials, and success stories. Talking to fresh graduates will help you activate your employer brand with young voices and social media might.
Connecting the dots
An added benefit of all the conversations you’re having is that you will soon be able to connect the dots, across the product lines of the organisation, across the businesses and functions, and more. These connections inspire the journey from the golden nugget you discovered to a full-blown story, that gathers its own momentum. As it gathers momentum, you find yourself being informed of more dimensions from across the company, sometimes from customers, employees, and partners. This multi-faceted story is a joy to read, adding value to anyone who reads it, because it has had its own unique journey of creation, and therefore, is like nothing else.
Selling the story
A story is only as good as its marketing – this is true of the entire publishing industry and it certainly is true for content, whether internal or external. Publishing the story with a media house, on your website, blog or intranet is not enough. Once it’s published, you must publicise it. This means at the very least taking a screengrab and a link and mailing everyone who you collaborated with, sharing the excitement of it going live, and asking them to share it as well. Even if it is published on a media house or your social media accounts, the personal touch of sharing these links with colleagues, and leaders, or talking about the story when you find a chance is a must. Why? Because storytelling is a basic human instinct – when you market success, you share it and everyone feels the sense of excitement on something being published, being a part of creating it and sharing it. This will set the tone for them to keep sending you stories, and your story factory is now open.
The life of a story seeker is an adventure. You must be courageous, to ask questions that are bold, to seek audiences with leaders and those who may seem inaccessible. You must be strong enough to follow your spirit of enquiry, even if it means asking silly questions. The story quest is its own reward, learning, and understanding more each time you follow a lead, making you a better conversationalist for the next virtuous cycle – this is the difference between a storyteller and a story seeker.
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