We all create and curate content. We share links , quote great men and women, and provide information and data to our communities – but is that enough to create a real bond between us and them?
Facts are dry, quotations a moment’s entertainment, and data only important when embedded in context. But stories become part of our lives. Think about it – you may not remember when the Battle of the Alamo was fought, but you remember the story of the fight for freedom waged by its valiant defenders and the ultimate gesture of defiance they made.
An old Native American proverb says; “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” A simple phrase, but one that tells you everything you need to know about connecting with your community on an emotional level. If you want people to identify with you, telling them a story, that they can identify with allows you to connect on a very real emotional level.
So how do we tell a story effectively? Think about the movie “Rudy“. You could summarize the movie by saying “Rudy went to Notre Dame and played football” – but that wouldn’t provide any emotional impact (unless you are a Notre Dame alumnus). But the story the movie told was “Rudy wanted to play football at Notre Dame. His passion was so great that he parlayed a junior college stint to admission to the school, kept trying to get on to the football team , refusing to accept defeat until he got to walk on to the team as an undersized player …”
Business stories can be just as evocative- ” Lifesaver candies are popular and iconic candies generally placed near the cash register in stores that sell them”. That’s not as interesting as ” Lifesavers was a failing product when inventor Clarence Crane sold it to Edward Noble for $2900. Noble wrapped them in tin foil wrappers and sold them for a nickel. When groceries wouldn’t sell the product, Noble went to local bars telling them “Put Life Savers near the cash register. Then be sure every customer gets a nickel with his change and see what happens.” – customers started buying Lifesavers to mask the smell of alcohol – within 2 years they were placed in stores all over the United States, and by 1969 over a billion lifesavers were sold annually”
What should you do to tell your stories?
- Tell your story with passion and with humanity.
- Take the story as close to your audience as possible – make your topic, your protagonist, and your storyline something they can identify with.
- Keep it brief ,simple and interesting to your community – it doesn’t need to be formal or complicated. Make your story as short as you can and only as long as you need to.
- Give details – but only as they advance your story – don’t add extraneous descriptions that have nothing to do with your topic.
- Know the point you ‘re making and your story’s purpose- Do you want to inspire your audience? Make them laugh? Explain a point?
‘If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And here I will make a rule- a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last”
–John Steinbeck, East of Eden
So, what’s your story?