Stories in Business (Part I)

I started this blog to share what I know about screenwriting. It’s not a whole lot and we’ve barely gotten started. There is much more to come about all aspects of the writing process — characters, dialogue, images and metaphor, conflict and how to put it all together.

But during the long hours of the quarantine, I recently had a conversation with some friends who asked for help starting a webpage and building a social presence for their business, which got me thinking about the importance of using storytelling in marketing and business presentation.

Storytelling and Business — What do they have in common?

Many of you already know. If you work in marketing or PR, if you create online content or work in communications, you already apply 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, the next few essays might give you some ideas.

Storytelling can help frame ideas and messages, regardless of the medium. Stories can identify the core elements of your business which will help you tap into your intended audience, no matter what you’re selling.

Take a minute. 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?

The Story

At the center of every story is a character who has lost something or is suffering in some way. Even if they don’t know it, every character has a problem. Not just any problem. A big problem — one that addresses our most primal and basic needs for survival, love, family and identity. Like any and every person you meet in your waking life.

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

When a good story hooks us, it makes us care so much about these characters, their triumphs, and defeats. Why is that so?

The Obstacles

In a good story, we measure our hero’s success by their obstacles and setbacks. Through these conflicts, we gauge how hard our hero struggles to achieve their goal. Without obstacles and setbacks, without big losses, victory is unearned. It means less.

In every good story arc you’ll find these three elements:

  1. A good story gives us a main character who you want to root for.

A good story affects us.

Our interest is piqued. We’re curious. We want to know if the main character’s goal will be achieved. Our empathy is triggered. 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 own 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 your company 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 business 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 presentation 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 a main character — the person, company or product — to root for. You’ll find a question or problem for which your “main character” is the solution. You’ll find information you did not previously know that now makes you want to act in order to learn more.

Whether you’re a young writer pitching yourself or your ideas, you’re a seasoned executive, or you’re an entrepreneur with a new start up looking to disrupt a market, hopefully you can find some insight in these next three essays.

We’re going to look at how storytelling can help you create the content you need for your business and the ways 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.

This is the first installment in a brief digression away from screenwriting into how to use storytelling to enhance your content marketing and business presentations.

For Part Two, click here. For Part Three, click here. For Part Four, click here.

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p.w. alex&er

Film critic turned film schooler turned screenwriter turned free advice giver. Presenting thoughts on Screenwriting, Hollywood, and sometimes Social Marketing.