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  • Writer's pictureMary Knox Miller

Storytelling 101

Your community craves connection. The fastest way to build trust is through story. Here's how you translate your 'why' into an unforgettable story.

In its simplest form, a story shares information and connects one human being to another.

Why have we been telling stories for centuries? Because they solicit emotional responses. When emotions kicks in, you associate the story with a personal memory. Chances are high the story resonates and stays with you.

What does this mean for your organization?

If you keep track of the latest marketing trends, you know that people crave connection. They open their wallets when a brand speaks to them, empathizes with their current problem, and offers a clear solution. Along the way, the brand qualifies its expertise and gains the trust of their audience.

Your audience wants to know the people behind your brand - no longer will product specs or mission statements satisfy. You are a living, breathing entity. Your power lies in your ability to connect with your audience.

And what connects people, builds trust and enables authenticity to shine through? You guessed it - stories.

Note: I said stories - plural

Storytelling isn’t a one-and-done strategy. Yes, you need to discover and define your main story, but from that build a multi-pronged approach incorporating multiple forms of content - words, photos, video.

Ultimately, your goal is to find people who believe what you believe, not just need what you sell or stand for. Start from the inside and work your way out - from why, to how, to what.

Ready to get started? Here’s your guide. No email address required.

Step 1: Start with "why"

Simon Sinek is a smart man. He says, “People don’t buy what you do/create (eg. Apple computer); they buy why you do it (eg. Apple challenges the status quo).”

Yes, Apple makes brilliant products, but what they really do is foster (if not outright change) your beliefs about conformity.

So what belief system are you trying to change? How are you encouraging your community to shift their mindset, think in new ways, discover and consider other possibilities?

Let’s say you’re a general contractor that renovates houses. ‘What’ you do is construction, but you’re so much more than building supplies and talent management.

‘Why’ did you choose this profession? To turn houses into homes? Or to help clients realize a vision that will be remembered for generations?

Step 2: Identify your audience's needs.

As much as you want to be the hero in your story, your audience is the hero.

They're going about their day and realize they have a problem.

External problem: I have an outdated, poor functioning kitchen. I need a contractor who can take me from 'before' to 'after.'

But as anyone who has survived home renovations knows, it's not just about changing walls or windows. Ultimately, it’s an arduous, emotion-filled journey from which we desperately want to emerge victorious.

Internal problem: I'm frustrated and embarrassed by my 1960s kitchen. I want someone to understand my pain, tell me my vision of a new kitchen is feasible, and that s/he or they know exactly how to get me from here to there as fast and smooth as possible.

What do I need? A contractor, yes. But really, I need an experienced, trustworthy guide.

Step 3: Become the Yoda they've been searching for.

If I’m going to invest in you, donate to your cause, purchase goods or services, it means you understand what makes me tick.

I look at your website, listen to your podcast, watch a video and within seconds it’s as if you’re reading my mind.

You know how to get me from where I am now to where I want to be.

Let’s go back to the kitchen remodel.

My Pinterest boards are overflowing with ideas and I’m ready to interview contractors. I look at your website filled with draw-dropping galleries of gleaming surfaces. Visually, I’m hooked. But how are you going to hold my attention?

You need to connect with me on a human level. You have to show me that you understand both my excitement and trepidation.

Maybe it’s a story about blunders made during your own renovations. Or perhaps it’s a checklist of things contractors aren’t telling you but you should know. Heck, it could even be a story about spending hours as a kid building ornate Lego sets.

Step 4: Call them to action + show (don’t tell) what success looks like.

You’re the answer to my problem. I know this because you’ve proved your expertise and you’re relatable.

It’s time for you to make it obvious - on your website, in email, or social media - what I’m supposed to do next.

This could be as simple as a phone number to call or an online comment form. Or it could be as ornate as a video series showcasing your expertise.

But just as important as the call to action is painting a picture of what my life will look like if I follow through.

Enter: Testimonials, a step-by-step guide of your process, or even a webpage with your ‘pledge’ to the community you serve.

What if...

As a leader of an organization, what would happen if you changed your perspective on marketing? Instead of touting products or services (your 'what'), how about telling stories about the people and mission behind your organization (your 'why')?

You'd be practicing meaningful marketing while building a passionate community that trusts you wholeheartedly - and sings your praises!

Ready to get started? Here’s your guide.

No email address required!


Ready to craft your story?

If you'd like guidance along the way, sign up for Human Dispatches, a newsletter where I share all I've learned to inspire conversation.


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