People lie at the heart of storytelling, and it’s been like that since the dawn of time. The Bible and Koran are surely testament to that. I made that case in my Newsroom Secret of 2 October, and suggested how you needed to find real people, AKA real case-studies, in order to tell powerful stories in your business.
But the most powerful storytelling in business involves three other ingredients, too. Happily, I’ve contrived it so they all begin with P.
Pictures — Place — and Peril.
What made you click on the link to this article? I’ll bet it was because that photo of the launderette made you just a little bit curious.
If you’re scanning a news website, or even a good old fashioned newspaper, what draws you to read a particular story? I bet it’s always the picture.
The most inspiring news editor I worked with in TV News was always crystal clear — the most important part of our 28 minute news bulletin were the pictures we chose for the opening sixty seconds of headlines. I could have crafted the most skilful script to sum the story up, but it was the pictures that compelled an audience to stay tuned.
Let’s translate this to your business. You’re launching a new service. It’s a bit boring, but it’s important and you’re damn proud of it.
The temptation is to simply write about it, and leave it there. Resist that temptation. Instead, think hard about what image you could use to draw the person to read the words you’re going to write. I did it just now when I sat down to write these paragraphs. I forced myself to think — what’s the picture going to be?
This article is about the art of ‘storytelling.’ That’s potentially quite dull. But by associating it with a picture of a man standing outside a launderette, it seems I’ve drawn you in.
Of course, Google Maps could have simply used a headshot of their launderette owner.
But they haven’t, have they?
We see him framed fairly small in shot, surrounded by his authentic launderette. It’s clearly a real business owner, in a real street, facing a real business challenge.
So here’s an idea. You’re proud of your latest product. Let’s say it’s a garden swing-seat. You’ve had loads of great testimonials. They’re all on your website. But think how much more powerful they could be if they showed a real customer of yours, enjoying that swing seat in their garden.
Sounds absurd? I’m not so sure it is nowadays. You don’t need to send along a photographer. Just ask your client/customer if they’d be happy to send you a snap. It may take a bit of persuasion, and you will get a few knock-backs, but you only need one or two to create that sense of trust and authenticity for a visitor looking at it on your website. You’ll have created an emotional connection. You’ll have drawn them in. They’ll want to find out more.
That’s the power of storytelling.
Not convinced? Here’s an example from Wilverley.com, a company that actually makes garden swingseat, delightfully known as The Idler. (Full disclosure: it’s run by my sister-in-law.) Plenty of photos of swingseats, of course … but the one that connects with me emotionally is the shot of Denise from Oxfordshire, dozing with her cat …
There’s not much peril in the swing-seat business.
Or is there?
What if you’ve looked at a few swingseats that just didn’t feel comfortable, or that were too cumbersome to pack away, or go mouldy when it rains? Part of the Wilverley Idler’s storytelling is that some rival swingseats might have those flaws … they hint at this peril in their copy.
The picture of our launderette owner implies that customers might have been turning up too late to collect their garments — but thanks to Google Maps, that’s a problem solved!
So here’s an example to end on, from a government department gearing us all up for Brexit a couple of years ago.
Here, with one image and 31 words, is storytelling that ticks all my “Ps”.
There’s a real person in it.
He appears to be in a real place, a proper warehouse. There’s no soft-focus drag and drop from Shutterstock here.
And there’s a sense of Peril — new rules are coming, but if you visit our website we can help you sort them out.
So next time you’re wondering where the stories lie in your business … picture real people, with a peril resolved, in an authentic place … and your business may live happily ever after.