Using the Power of Storytelling to Grow Your Business
Which movie is this?
We have a hero who starts in humble beginnings and answers the call of adventure.
They leave home, get out of their comfort zone, and receive training from a wise old mentor, and then goes on a great journey.
On this quest, they face a bad guy, almost lose everything, but eventually succeed and return home having changed for the better.
Lord of the Rings?
The Devil Wears Prada?
The answer is, all of them. This formula is the basis for just about every single story ever told, any story with lasting impact and big box office bucks at least is built on this formula.
Joseph Campbell researched myths and legends and discovered this underlying pattern in one form or another in every single one. He named it, The Hero’s Journey and describes it in detail in his now classic book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
In the Hero’s journey, our hero is called out, reluctantly, from the ordinary day to day Hobbiton life to go on an adventure. She meets a guide, who gives her what she needs to face evil, tests, and overcome the ultimate challenge. She is transformed and brings back what she has learned to her once ordinary world.
Your brain on stories
Just reading these short stories of our hero, even they are generic, is enough to get you at least a little excited and pique your interest. That is because the feel-good chemicals are flowing through your body right now, oxytocin is released in your brain for you to empathise and bond to our hero.
Your brain instinctively reacts to story.
Good storytellers create tension, they leave gaps in the story that need to be resolved, the girl needs to leave the ball before midnight or risk be discovered, the bomb needs to be diffused, or the boy needs to get to the girl to tell her, in a room filled with reporters, that he loves her… These gaps cause the release of dopamine, the chemical that helps you pay attention.
Human beings are storytelling creatures, our brains have evolved to use narrative to make sense of the world and to bond to one another so that we can form organised tribes.
Stories galvanized social movements, “I have a dream”, and won wars throughout the centuries, “We shall never surrender.”
Who has the biggest following? They who can tell a better story. It is after all the first job of a leader to define a new reality, a possible better future.
Storytelling is a meaning-making mechanism. We tell ourselves stories all the time, we dream in stories, and we tell each other stories every single day. If you have ever answered the question,
You are a storyteller.
“We need myths to get by. We need story; otherwise, the tremendous randomness of experience overwhelms us.” Robert Coover
Using the power of storytelling to grow your business.
Storytelling is an immensely powerful tool you can use in clarifying your message to your customers and to your team by tapping into our hardwiring.
In a world that is that throwing thousands of ads at us everyday understanding the age-old power of storytelling will get your business the scarcest resource on the planet,
In a world that is that throwing thousands of ads at us everyday understanding the age-old power of storytelling will get your business the scarcest resource on the planet, attention.
There are quite a few models of storytelling out there and they all come down to basically the same structure. Author of Wild, Cheryl Strayed, says that a story consists of three parts, Sorrow, Journey, and Redemption.
The hero’s journey consists of 12 stages. When you use these twelve stages to tell a story you tap into that attention-grabbing power. Our brains are always searching for stories, which is why we spend about a third of our time daydreaming. Retrieving, reliving, watching, reading, hearing stories results in what Aristotle referred to as “proper pleasure”.
In short, if you want someone attention, you’d better be telling them a story.
The Story Map
In Villains, Heroes, and Victories, I use 5 of those pieces to help businesses design a simple to use Story Map. In the Masterclass, we delve deeper into each of those stages and write up a story for your business to use.
But first, in Donald Miller’s book Storybrand he explains that there are three questions that the hearer always needs to be able to answer when listening to a story. When you are writing up your Story Map always keep these in the back of your mind as a litmus test to check if you are still on the right track,
What does the hero want?
What is in their way?
What will happen if they get it, or do not get it?
Now when can get to the story map. You can use these to a start to redesigning the way your business communicates to customers.
The five pieces in the Map are:
and a victory.
Who is the hero in your story? Here is a clue, it is not you. It’s your customer. The key mistake brands make, which Miller also points out, is to make your brand the hero. We all play the hero in our own heads, in our own lives, we are each living our own story, complete with villains, sages and desires.
When we enter a customer’s story as the hero, they’ll lose interest fast. Two heroes in a story only end up in a fight, just ask Superman and Batman.
What does the hero, your customer, want? What is the problem that they need to solve, the problem that has disrupted their beautiful Hobbiton world, so they can return to normal?
Figuring out what someone wants is simpler than you think because deep down we all really want the same thing.
We want to feel safe and secure.
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Prof Theodore Levitt
Seth Godin points out that what we want isn’t actually a quarter inch hole. What we want is to hang a picture, so that our home will look nice and feel warm and safe. What we want is perhaps for people to know that we have good taste so we can be included in a tribe and feel secure.
So, what does your hero want to get them back to feeling safe and secure?
Every good story has a villain, Batman has the Joker, Katniss Everdeen has President Snow, Little Red Riding Hood has the Wolf.
Every hero needs to face a challenge, an obstacle, a villain that is standing in between them and what they desire, to return to feeling safe and secure.
Who (or what) is the villain in your hero’s story?
In just about every story there’s a wise sage that enters the narrative, a Gandalf, a Hamish Abernathy, a Dumbledore. It is the role of the sage to train the hero and equip her with the tools, a magical sword, Kung Fu skills, or a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s, to overcome the villain.
This is where you come in, you are Yoda.
What is it that you can teach and offer, the product or service, our hero for her to defeat her enemies and overcome the obstacles?
What does the victory look like, how would you describe it? What happens to our hero when she wins the match? How will her life change? Will she be united to her long-lost lover, will she be transformed into a better human being, or will she be affirmed by everyone, crowned as ruler?
And what will happen if she fails, what does failure look like in this story?
Tell your hero both endings, with a focus on the victory. How will their lives change when they have used your advice, your tools, to overcome the challenges and win the day?
Story is powerful and it needs to be used not to blow our own horns, but rather to enter the story of others in order to serve them and their journeys. Story is what makes us human and in a world that is filled with bots, spam, and bs, storytelling can not only grow our businesses and reconnect us to one another but also recapture some our humanity.
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