Corporate storytelling and how it can help you

Emotional impact matters when it comes to corporate storytelling. Yes, you need to give your potential customers the facts, but you also need to stir their feelings to make an impact.

People want to buy from people, because emotion is what really drives purchasing behaviors. Buying from “soulless corporations” is less desirable.

Corporate storytelling is one of the best ways to have that emotional impact to grab and hold people’s interest. When your potential customers need or want your product or service, they will remember you through your well-told story.

What is corporate storytelling, and why is it so valuable?

Corporate storytelling is applying narrative to your business. For example, you might add a history page to your website that lists a timeline of events. That’s a good option, but one that tells the story of how your business got to where it is now is better. That’s the way to grab your potential customers’ attention.

Storytelling in business helps you

  • build a relationship with your customers,
  • convey your values,
  • provide more entertaining content people will want to read and share,
  • build a relationship with your employees and inspire them to be more productive, and
  • show the world who you are and why they should care, such as with an origin story that tells them how your business came to be.

A story’s power lies in the emotional connections it creates. In a corporate context, this can and should be an important part of your communication strategy.

What are the key aspects of corporate storytelling?

You should be telling a bit of a story every time you communicate – but you need to do it correctly. Random anecdotes might be entertaining at a corporate lunch, but they aren’t necessarily effective.

Your corporate story should be

  1. Relevant. It should connect directly to what you are trying to communicate. If you’re trying to tell your audience, “We are experienced,” a relevant story about something that happened 20 years ago might be enough. If you’re trying to communicate the importance of active listening to an employee, you might find it helpful to share an example of a time it worked for you.
  2. Compelling. People will tune out if your story doesn’t interest them. The worst crime you can commit here is to be boring. Try telling a compelling story – one that creates curiosity to know more.
  3. Thematic. It should match your core message, core values, corporate culture and mission statement. Develop corporate narratives that show your company at its best.
  4. Relatable. It has to contain a character that your audience can relate to. This person could be you. You can also create relatable characters using your buyer personas. Share examples that your audience recognizes.
  5. Visual. A visual story is more powerful than one made only with words. Try to incorporate visual communication, such as images, sound or your own body language.

A good story often includes conflict. This might be between your company and regulators or a competitor, or it might be an internal battle your character is facing.

Regularly reading good fiction can help you understand what makes a good story at an emotional level.

Corporate storytelling techniques

Learning to be a good storyteller takes time. You can, of course, seek help from a ghostwriter, but understanding the basic techniques and trying it out yourself will help.

Showing instead of telling is a really good technique often given to young fiction writers as a rule, but it’s more of a guideline. In a corporate story, this might involve using visual material. A picture really is worth a thousand words, so include infographics and photos.

Another technique is to tell a personal story. This doesn’t have to be about you. You can tell a customer’s story constructed from customer surveys and testimonials. With their consent, you can tell the story of how a specific customer benefitted from your product or service at a personal level. For internal communications, you can interview employees in the same way and share their stories.

You can also share your own personal stories to explain why you make decisions and connect with customers. You don’t have to share anything private – although pet pictures are known to sell anything!

Finally, take data and frame a story around it to help people understand. Slideshows and PowerPoints work well for this.

An important thing to note: don’t only tell positive stories. Tell stories about times you failed or struggled and about things that went wrong. If all you ever do is tell stories of sunshine and rainbows, your customers will start to think you’re exaggerating or making things up.

You should also tell a true story and be authentic. A story you or a ghostwriter made up is likely to come back to haunt you later when somebody calls you out on it.

Corporate storytelling examples

Here are some examples of business storytelling you can use as inspiration to create your own ideas.

Case studies

Case studies are a classic example of storytelling. A case study is a success story about somebody who used your product or service and benefited from it.

For example, Jane’s roof was leaking. She contacted you for a new roof. While you talked to her, you found out she was also concerned about her utility bills. You were able to sell Jane a solar roof, and now her utility bills are lower – as are her stress levels.

Mistake stories

We’ve already talked about sharing failures. “Don’t be me” stories are compelling narratives showing you learn from your mistakes. They can educate customers, preventing them from making the same ones.

For example, Frank runs the food and beverage services for a hotel in New York. He rents the event space and most of the rooms to a convention. The convention owners warn him that their crowd tends to run up a bar tab. He looks at other, similar-sized conventions and orders accordingly. Big mistake! This crowd really does drink, and he runs out of gin on the first day of the convention.

This story tells the listener to listen to their customers because they know their needs.

Corporate storytelling templates

Using templates can make corporate storytelling easier. Templates can form part of a story-building system that helps you use the right story structure. They are particularly useful for visual storytelling.

For example, you might have a template for case studies that makes sure you collect all the necessary information. It also puts it into an outline that ensures you tell the right story.

Producing a well-crafted story is a skill and something everyone involved in corporate communications needs to learn. Pip Decks is for you if you want to learn the art of storytelling and know how to use it to influence and inspire employees, customers or clients.

Our Storyteller Tactics Card Deck is designed to provide you with simple tactics (each fits on the back of a card) to help you plan more creative presentations and tell meaningful stories that support your business’s brand.

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