Say the word “storytelling” and usually two images arise — mothers reading storybooks to children and an older person sitting around a campfire spinning a tale. While most people today recognize that stories are infinitely more interesting than a stale marketing message, the idea of using this concept makes many business leaders roll their eyes as if to say, tell a story? really?
But, if your job is communications, then you owe it to your organization to explore this communications tool. Below are some of the most common objections to using storytelling in business along with some ways to counter these prejudices.
Objection #1: If I talk about myself, I’ll be labeled a narcissist or worse, a marketer. The truth is that people are interested in other people. If you think about your latest case study or customer testimonial, wasn’t it all about how someone was affected? By telling a story that talks about the change you or someone near you experienced, you are actually creating the highest form of relevance.
Objection #2: I will sound too emotional or unprofessional. Make sure your stories are relevant to your audience. So, this means if you are speaking to someone who takes action because of an emotional appeal, by all means, throw in some of that. But, if your audience is seeking something more academic or bottom line-oriented, then it is all a matter or choosing the right tone, including the language, the setting, the lesson learned, and the characterization of the people in the story.
Objection #3: I can’t get my story into 5 sentences! Who says your story has to be that short? But, if it is long, then be sure to throw in some interesting anecdotes, colorful characters and actions that bring people along. Remember, there is a difference between telling the truth and being accurate to the point the truth is lost. What you must do is tell a complete story. Identify: the characters, the setting, the action, the change that occured, and the lessons that were learned.
Objection #4: My story’s not that great. Are you sure? Again, what happened? To whom? What happened along the way? What was interesting? What would be interesting to your audience? The idea is to describe something in a story format.
Objection #5: My story won’t sell. You won’t know until you try. What are you trying to “sell?” Your journey? The lesson learned? The end result? The people? Identify what you are trying to accomplish and stay true to that goal. You have to believe in your story for it to resonate.