We are all storytellers.
At least, that is, we should be. But the misconception that storytelling is exclusively the realm of ‘creatives’ rather than entrepreneurs and other business leaders is holding too many organisations back at a time when prospective clients are not just looking to spend their money, but to spend it with businesses they feel understand their needs on a personal level.
I understand. It’s daunting to reveal yourself to utter strangers without fear of judgement or jeers. However, finding the courage to do so marks a major step towards taking your business to the next level.
And now, thanks to recently leaked data, understanding how to tell your story effectively has never been easier.
America’s National Public Radio, better known as NPR, is one of the world’s leading broadcasters. Not because of the scale of its international distribution network. Not because of its niche. NPR is one of the world’s leading broadcasters because its producers and reporters know how to create and shape some of the best stories that have ever travelled the radio waves.
In July of 2017, a training document from the team behind NPR One – the network’s podcast app – was discovered online. It included an exciting and insightful analysis of what stories connected with listeners the most, based on listener’s usage frequency, how long they listened, and how often they shared NPR One content on social media.
While the information was designed to teach audio journalists how to create powerful segments for local radio or podcast, many of their points are just as applicable to written content.
Here are some of the most important ones, which you can put to use straight away:
Consider how much information exists on the internet right now. It’s almost impossible to imagine, right? Now ask yourself why anyone would choose to read or listen to your content over anyone else’s.
To engage your audience, you must hook them in the first few sentences. Set up your story with what NPR call a ‘grabby’ intro – one that instills a sense of curiosity or intrigue; a reason for them to continue.
Don’t start with “I was born on x day, x month, x year, to my parents x and x”. Everyone knows that story. Everyone has that story. Dare to prove you are different, and audiences will be interested.
Explain Why It Matters
NPR talk about the importance of framing your story to explain why it is important to a listener’s community.
It is no different for any business leader, but the focus is your community. Think of an audience member as the person you used to be, before you changed your life and found success through your work. Understand that they are engaging with your story because they want to be who you are today, by potentially procuring your services. As you go on, remind them that doing so is the right decision.
Respect Your Audience’s Time
Always a challenging one for those who aren’t used to telling stories.
With every line you write or speak, ask yourself “does it matter?” It might mean something to you, but is it relevant to the rest of the story?
It’s not true that audiences won’t engage with long-form content online, so long as you keep succinct and on message.
These are the three key points from NPR, but I would like to add two more specifically for new storytellers.
Don’t delay posting a 500 word blog post for three weeks just because you want it to be perfect. It never will be. So get it out there.
Write as You Speak
Audiences want to hear your story because they want to know you.
So don’t write like a journalist if you don’t speak like one. If you’re known for your sense of humour, feel free to joke.
Don’t write the way you think you have to write. Just be yourself. Follow the rest of the steps above, and the right people will get your message every time.
Used correctly, storytelling has a power like no other to inspire the support and loyalty of potential clients. As Princeton’s Uri Hasson explains it “A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience”.
Now you have all this in mind, there’s only one more step left to take: