If you’re in business, you’re also in the business of writing. What’s more, the style of writing you have to get right is the one that most of us struggle with, namely writing business stories.
You’re probably at the point of baling out of this article.
After all, what’s storytelling got to do with business?
But wait. Consider the following:
- Your LinkedIn profile
- Your elevator pitch
- Your social media posts
- Your website home and about pages
- Your company mission statement
They have one thing in common. They’re all business stories.
And it’s critical that you get them right.
That’s because business stories bring to life what you do differently and better than anyone else.
Now, before I go on, I’ve a confession to make. I’m not a good writer and I’ve been finding it hard to tell my own business stories.
That’s why recently I turned to 3 books on business stories to help me get better. I think they can help you too. But more on this later.
What is business storytelling?
Business storytelling is expressed through the content that you produce for internal consumption or external consumption.
Internal storytelling examples might: be the townhall message that your CEO posts on your intranet site. Or the presentation that your CMO gives on an upcoming product launch. Not forgetting of course the update that you provide at your quarterly business review and your own team briefings.
External business stories could include the COVID business continuity letter that your Service Director sends directly to customers. Or the recruitment campaign that your HR Team runs on LinkedIn. Plus the website blog article that showcases your latest thought-leadership. And the ad campaign that accompanies your upcoming product launch.
Regardless of the type of content or the medium in which it is distributed, one thing is crystal clear:
“The old way of communicating with logic and reason won’t get the job done. People, more than ever, long to connect on an emotional level. Storytelling, since the beginning of recorded time, is the tool we homo sapiens have used to create clarity out of chaos.”The Business of Story, Park Howell
How do you write good business stories?
Firstly, you have to make a mental mindset shift. This takes you away from your comfort zone of the “informational” to the uncomfortable area of the “emotional”.
It’s uncomfortable because in business, we are taught to lead with logic. To be “data-rational”. And to “know our numbers”.
Bringing in emotion and telling stories seems childish. In fact. writing stories is something most of us discarded long before we left school. Even though, of course, the practice of telling stories never leaves us. Even as adults.
So, we spend hours writing data-rich PowerPoint presentations or detailed case-studies for our business colleagues and customers. Only to discover that those are wasted hours because our carefully crafted work ends up boring rather than inspiring.
With the inevitable consequence that our internal audiences switch off. And our external audiences stop reading or scroll on without even engaging.
So, it’s clear.
The informational is one-dimensional. It’s flat. It’s boring. It’s uninspiring.
Deep down I know this. Probably, you know it too.
But you possibly don’t want to admit it. So, I’ll say it instead. Over many years, I’ve been boring colleagues and customers alike with my simply uninspiring business stories.
So, if you’re anything like me and you’ve have been communicating this way for decades, you’ve no choice but to change your communication style.
You have to learn to weave the “emotional” into the “informational”. And the way to do this is by telling authentic business stories that connect on a human level.
The 4C’s of writing good business stories
Your business stories are obviously unique to you.
Which means that there’s no one magic formula for telling your business stories well.
You may find however that the 4C’s of copywriting help you.
As you craft your post, presentation or email. Ask yourself these questions.
- Am I clear with my messages?
- Am I concise with the points I’m making?
- Am I compelling in the story that I’m telling?
- Am I credible with what I’m saying and can I back it up with proof?
As Ann Handley author of Everybody Writes notes:
“Good writing gets you noticed whatever form your content actually takes”Ann Handley
3 books that will help you to write better business stories
As mentioned earlier, I’m not a good writer but I am trying to get better. One way to become a better writer is to read the right books on business storytelling.
Recently, I read 3 excellent books about writing business stories. I found them helpful and insightful. So, now I’d like to introduce them to you.
1. The Story Advantage – Lisa Bloom
Fortunately for me, last month I had the privilege of attending Lisa Bloom’s Story Advantage Boot Camp which accompanied her new book of the same name.
The Story Advantage is a short book that explains why storytelling is a powerful and innate medium of communication. It also provides a framework for crafting a compelling story. Finally, it gives sound advice on how to captivate an audience when telling your story.
As a bonus, the book contains many interesting allegories.
However, if this is not your thing, then dive straight into the core message of how to construct your business story by following the Freytag formula and using what Lisa calls the “pivotal moment” to highlight the point of transformation achieved by your product or service.
2. Brand Bewitchery – Park Howell
This is a powerful book by an author who clearly is an expert on the art of storywriting.
Before getting into the book, I watched a Vimeo video of Park quite literally bewitching a large corporate audience with a witty and highly informative keynote.
His latest book sets out his 10 Step Story Cycle System™ which is a blueprint to map your business stories onto a storytelling framework that has created meaning from ancient times right through to the modern world of blockbuster movies and viral marketing.
Park uses case studies to show practically how to apply each of the steps to humanise your brand, bring it to life and build your business.
3. Everybody Writes – Ann Handley
Just reading the introductory chapter of this book will give you an instant lift. Especially if you happen to be what Ann calls an “adult-onset writer”. That is to say, someone who as an adult has to write but dislikes writing.
In her book, she eloquently explains what good writing is. Moreover, she makes clear that good writing matters more than ever in a world drowning in a sea of mediocre marketing messages.
Ann explains that quality content must have utility, inspiration, and empathy for the reader. Indeed, business stories with these 3 essential elements are noticed, read, and shared.
In addition, writing business stories requires that you start with a quality product, clear thinking, and a core message or call to action.
And finally, your business stories become a memorable differentiator when you tell your story from your unique perspective with a style that’s clearly you.
Everybody Writes is a very comprehensive book with rules and guidelines throughout that will help you write all forms of business content better.
In summary – business stories matter
Like it or loathe it, we’re all writers now. So, it makes sense to get better at it.
Particularly, when we instinctively understand the power of storytelling. And especially now that we know that it truly adds value to our business.
I hope this article and the 3 books I recommend will help you as you write your business stories in the future.
For those sceptics that still believe that information and data beat storytelling, I leave you with this quote from Steve Jobs from 1994 when he was CEO of Pixar.
“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.”Steve Jobs
If you found this article helpful you may also like to read:
For more articles like this, please subscribe to our business coaching blog.
Finally, thank you for reading this article.
If you found it interesting, why not share it with a friend or colleague?