Beyond Movies: Why Stories Matter in Business

Story telling Words

I started this website to share what I know about screenwriting.  We’ve barely gotten started.  There is a lot more to come about all aspects of the writing process — characters, dialogue, imagery and metaphor, conflict and how to put it all together.

But a conversation I recently had with some friends who asked for help starting a webpage for their business got me thinking about the importance of using storytelling in marketing and business presentations.

Storytelling and business presentations.  What do they have in common?  

I’m sure many of you already know.  If you work in marketing or PR, if you create on-line content or work in communications, you are already applying these concepts to what you do.  If you’re still learning about story or you’re curious to find new and different ways to use your storytelling skills, these next few essays might give you some ideas.

So let’s take a look at how storytelling can help frame ideas and messages, regardless of the medium.  Let’s see if we can identify the core elements of storytelling that can help you tap into  your intended audience, no matter what your business .

Take a moment.  Think about your favorite movies.  The ones you love and remember.  What is it that makes you want to go back and watch them again and again?

It’s the story. 

At the center of every one of those stories is a character who has lost something or is suffering in some way.   Even if they don’t know it, these characters have a problem.  Not just any problem.  A big problem — one that addresses our most primal and basic needs for survival, love, family and identity.

Solving that problem is never easy.  There are challenges to face.  Obstacles to overcome.  Attempts and failures.  Lessons to be learned.

Watching our favorite characters struggle, we come to know them.  We identify with them and understand them.  We learn from their efforts.  And we share in their victories and defeats.

What is it about a good story that hooks us…?  What is it that makes us care so much about these characters with their triumphs and defeats?

It’s the obstacles they face. 

In a good story, we measure our hero’s success by their obstacles and setbacks.  It is through these conflicts that we gauge how hard our hero struggled to achieve his or her goal.  Without obstacles and setbacks, without big losses, victory is unearned.  It doesn’t mean anything.

That’s why in every good story arc you’ll find these three elements:
A good story gives us a main character who we want to root for.
A good story includes obstacles our main character must overcome and a big problem to solve.
A good story offers a lesson to be learned from our main character’s journey.

How a good story affects us.
Our curiosity is piqued.  We want to know if the main character’s goal will be achieved.
Our empathy is trigger.  We understand what the main character goes through.
Our emotions are tapped.  We identify with how the main character heals and grows.

A good story makes us feel alive.
The highs and lows of the story put us in touch with our feelings.
The catharsis we experience liberates us from our anxiety and stress.
Renewed, we feel connected to the world around us.

Selling yourself or your product is no different. 

Running a business is full of challenges.  Getting a product to market, making a non-profit known, closing a tough sale, landing that perfect job or finding the perfect client – these are just some of the obstacles you face every day.  Whether you’re trying to frame a problem, inspire an action or elicit a response, the time-tested elements of storytelling can help you distill complex ideas into easily understood concepts and enhance the impact of your message by appealing to both the emotional and rational drivers that motivate your consumers.

It takes a story. 

People feel first and think second.  Employing storytelling techniques to content marketing and presentations  helps sell your products and services because it engages the hearts of your desired audience.  Adding drama and imagination to your story makes what you’re selling more relatable.  And that makes your content that much more effective.

In every good presentation you’ll find these key elements:
A main character – the person, company or product — that we root for.
A question or problem for which your “main character” is the solution.
Information we did not previously know that now makes us want to act in order to learn more.

*             *           *            *             *          *             *          *            *           *

Whether you’re a young writer pitching yourself or your ideas, you’re a season executive or you’re an entrepreneur with a new start up looking to disrupt a market, the next three essays are for you.

We’re going to look at how storytelling can help you create the content you need for your business and the ways that the principles of good storytelling can help you connect with your consumers both emotionally and intellectually.

Then we’ll get back to business of screenwriting. Promise.


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