People love to share their stories with other people - especially when they are emotionally touched – and it is called social sharing in the language of the web. Besides the fact of sharing, it also serves to organize feelings: negative feelings can be mitigated by talking about them and that provides relief; positive feelings, on the other hand, can be amplified and prolonged by talking about them. Content with low emotional value is rarely shared with others, whereas highly emotional content is very often shared and best conveyed by telling stories.
1. The more emotional, the more viral
Stories translate information into emotion and can literally cast a magical spell on us. They increase credibility since they are much more memorable than numbers, data, and facts. When told in a masterly way, they have incredible psychological power: they arouse curiosity and attract attention, can make people loosen up, relax, and create a feeling of familiarity, besides igniting imagination; they even make extremely complicated relationships understandable and increase persuasiveness, and foster listening in general.
2. You first must make up the story – then tell it
Good stories need surprising products, fascinating services, and extraordinary encounters. What people tell about it must be sought and found. Overall, there are three kind of stories: from the company, about the employees, and from/with customers. For example, you could report on the successes that the customers achieve with your help, what kind of interesting people deal with your products, or in which exciting places your products/services are used. You can also provide behind the scene episodes from everyday business life since this always seems interesting. Chat about special production processes, rare raw materials, or you could also reveal the stories behind inventors and their innovations or outline the future of your industry.
3. The best stories are told by the customers themselves
Make customers an active part of your stories. Their testimonials and references are far more credible than events that you tell. Talk to your customers to find out the right stories. Collect and document them and quickly put the right things into circulation for further distribution. The relevant press can also be grateful for this. Stories, on the other hand, that are incorrect or embellished are sooner or later exposed, which is why the indignant employees are more and more responsible. False loyalty, in which the workforce knowingly covers the unethical behavior of the superiors, no longer exists – and that is how it should be.
4. Listen to the stories told in the hallways
How do customer service staff talk about internal issues? Is the customer a hero or horror figure? What stories do suppliers and partners share about you? What do executives tell behind the scenes? Or what do alumni disseminate on employer rating portals? The picture your people paint is the picture customers will have of you. So, tell the stories to be told about you! Talk about results, not problems! Everyone is magically attracted to a positive image: the (potential) employees and the (potential) customers. Therefore, tell success stories at every encounter, at all meetings, even in the smoking corner. No matter how you knit your stories, they always have two objectives: an internal one, i.e. the employees, and an external one, i.e. prospective customers, ex-customers, partners, suppliers, banks, investors, applicants, multipliers, the public. Internally, examples and anecdotes can be used to clarify how the company philosophy should be lived. For example, tell how a smart employee idea worked in practice and what the customers got out of it. Make your successes known not only on your own media, but on online portals and in the press, too. Illuminate a project in all its facets. Develop correct series of stories with “To be continued” or tell a story from the perspective of different protagonists. Then invite the readers to redistribute.
5. Well-made stories are told from the hero's perspective
The beginning is essential when we ask ourselves: “Does this have anything to do with me?” If the answer is “yes” and the whole thing is relevant to us, we continue to listen. If it does not matter to us, our brains simply switch off. People love heroes, especially when they pursue a noble goal and outgrow themselves for it. Ideally, the storyline follows a so-called hero journey. This leads to a glorious end, along an arc of tension from a suboptimal initial position via obstacles and blockages, trials and tribulations or near-crashes. Companies, products, and employees act as helpers, as loyal companions or useful spirits, who remain in the background, but without whom the transformation would not succeed. And like in a good film, the conflict is dragging on, while the solution then comes suddenly and quickly. But above all, good storytelling does not make your own company, but the customer a hero.
6. In digital times, stories are told across different media
Listeners and viewers are no longer restricted to the function of passive consumers, they can instead actively and creatively contribute by helping to shape the progress of a story themselves. If advertising and PR succeed in getting the target group excited about a transmedia story, this will be rewarded by an increased length of stay, greater loyalty to the brand and a higher recommendation rate. Narrative images and video clips, so-called visual storytelling, play an increasingly important role in this context. It goes without saying that the selected stories must be prepared in a media-friendly way: the long version of the story is told on the company's own website; on Facebook, it is shortened or distributed in chunks; on Instagram it is garnished with pictures; and it comes as a video on YouTube & Co. Finally, depending on the target group, different facets of a story should be highlighted.
By Daniela La Marca