Live your story

If you’ve followed the advice in our previous posts, you’ll have decided to tell an authentic story based on a fundamental truth and to present it in a way which is meaningful and relevant to your audience.   So far, so good.  You can rest assured that your story will be consistently delivered and constantly believable.  But how can you make it interesting?

The most compelling stories almost always contain an element of human intrigue, regularly stimulating the audience to ask questions like “What happened next?”, “How did they do that?” or even “Where do I sign up?”  A well-timed punch line (or, in business terms, call-to-action) then satisfies that curiosity and leaves the audience with an even greater appreciation for the story.

Now, you may be thinking that it’s easy to introduce an element of human intrigue when recounting the exploits from your recent fishing expedition or hen weekend, but how can you tell a business story in this way?  In fact, it’s easy!  And, not only that, you can enhance the “truthfulness” of your story at the same time.

The answer is to live your story.  In other words, as the story-teller you must have first-hand experience of the subject matter and be able to recount the story from your own “personal” perspective.  A story-teller who has lived a story themselves will always have a deeper appreciation and more compelling delivery of the story-line.

They’ll genuinely be able to say : “I know, because I was there!”

By telling your story from first-hand experience you’ll find that you generate enormous empathy with your audience.  Empathy, along with belief, is a fundamental pre-requisite for inspiration.  If your audience feels “you are in this with them” - that you share their concerns and have common experiences - they are far more likely to be inspired by what you have to say.

For an individual, living your story could be as simple as using your company’s products or services.  And we don’t mean use them “now and again”, like just before your next sales call or agency briefing.  We mean really use them.  Use them as if your life depended on it; use them until they break; use them until you know them better than you know yourself.  Because that’s what your customers will do, so why wouldn’t they expect the same from you?

When you have this level of product intimacy your story-telling will become so much richer.  By sharing a personal experience journey you can populate your story with real-life examples of human intrigue that will have your customers delightedly screaming : “Yes, I know exactly what you mean!”  And the next time they raise a sales objection, you’ll truthfully be able to counter it with solutions that you really believe in and they will believe in too.

Living your story is not just a mantra for individuals – it’s equally relevant for entire brands.  We share the view that world-leading brands are always built on a strong sense of purpose – they know why they are here and they know what they bring to the world.  But knowing these things is not enough.  A truly authentic brand doesn’t just tell a story, it lives its story at every single customer touch-point.

A brand that inspires us in this way is Disney.  Our founder Steve visited the DisneyWorld resort in Florida for two family vacations and is constantly impressed by how well Disney seems to understand its customers and the journey they take through its theme parks.  The level of service provision is clearly adapted in real-time as visitor numbers increase and an extremely consistent experience is delivered no matter how busy things get.  Most importantly, everybody you meet seems genuinely determined to ensure that you really do have “a magical time”.  As a consumer, it feels that the brand lives up to its promise.  And as marketers we know that this has not happened by chance.  It’s taken planning, preparation and investment - all of which has been based on first-hand insight about how customers experience its products.

This is just one example that is relevant.  You will have your own experiences of brands which seem to really know how you feel and who tell you a story that seems genuinely compelling.

Think about this the next time you have to tell a story.  Ask yourself the question : “Do I really know what it feels like to experience this ?”  If the answer is yes, then your story is genuine and can be told with all the elements of human intrigue necessary to captivate your audience time and time again.