The great Bob Dylan once said, “There is nothing so stable as change.” And though change makes many of us feel far from stable, he was right; along with death and taxes, change is one of the few things in life we can count on.

The media has changed enormously over recent times. In fact, 10 years ago, my job as a content writer didn’t exist — not in its current form, anyway. Will I be doing the same thing in 10 years? I hope so but no doubt in a modified form. That’s life; there’s no point in fighting it.

 

The storm that never ends

I attended a presentation by ex-broadcast journalist Alistair Wilkinson recently. Alistair described the dramatic changes he’s witnessed during his career as a “storm that never ends.”

Think about it. Not so long ago, we needed the media to tell us what was happening in the world. They shaped public opinion and wielded considerable power. The media wasn’t dubbed the “fourth estate” for no reason.

But something happened. A redistribution of power took place. It started slowly, but like an avalanche, has gathered momentum that seems unlikely to wane.

That “something,” of course, is the spectacular rise of the internet, social media and the devices we use to communicate. Today, anyone can be a publisher, to report news, to express opinions.

Mobile-phone
Remember this piece of “cutting-edge” technology?

During his presentation, Alistair said good journalists uncover and report on the story first. Well, the immediacy of social media has made this increasingly difficult for them to achieve. How often have you read a news story based on Facebook comments? How often do you know about a story well before it makes the six o’clock news?

The elements of journalism are the same

Thankfully, some things never change in life: the ingredients of a great song, the value of friendship. And though its dissemination seems to change daily, the elements of good journalism remain the same. One of those elements is the story.

Stories in business

Stories are powerful because people remember them. A study by the London School of Economics found most people remember only 5 – 10% of what they are told if given facts and figures. Tell them a story, though, and they will remember 65 – 70%. This is one of the reasons stories are so powerful in business.

Why do people remember stories? Well, stories make you feel. They help you empathise. They transport you to another place and time. And in a world bloated with information, much of it useless, stories help you understand.

The human brain is hardwired for storytelling. Ever since our first grunts morphed into language, mankind has created stories to share ideas. Think about The Tortoise and the hare. What’s the message? Well, if we persevere, we’ll get there in the end.

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Become a publisher

As I said, anyone can be a publisher. It’s never been easier. All you need is a website and a social media profile. And there’s no need to court the media to take interest in and then interpret your story. You’ve got control.

Case studies

Case studies, in written or video form, are a way in which businesses can tell their stories. They are ideal for explaining, in real terms, the benefits products or services provide. You see, by explaining benefits by telling a story, you’re not telling, you’re showing.

For example, if you sell weight-loss products, don’t just say “Our product enables you to lose 10 kilograms in five weeks.” Tell a story. Document a customer’s experiences using your product.

Make the story real. Describe the health problems they battled due to being overweight. Explain the consequences if they hadn’t taken action. And don’t sanitise it — all good stories have a touch of drama. If your customer was seduced by a sausage roll along the way, say so!

Here is what a case study should include:

  • Client background
  • The problem client was facing
  • Your client’s goal
  • Your approach to solving the problem
  • Problems along the way that you resolved
  • The outcome (with testimonials)
  • The benefits to your client.

 

Stories in HR

Stories can form the foundation of a company’s values — their reason for being.

The Colonel was far from an overnight success.

Many of the world’s most successful companies have used stories to romanticise how and why they were established. And they use these stories to build and maintain a healthy organisational culture.

The story of Honda is well known, particularly if you read books from the likes of the effervescent motivator Tony Robbins. In Honda’s story, founder, Soichiro Honda, persevered through crippling setbacks, including World War II, as he strove to build the company we know today. And look at KFC— at the age of 65, Colonel Sanders’ special recipe was rejected 1000 times before he finally tasted success.

Stories about a company’s origins can be used in all kinds of ways: About pages, company brochures, videos and presentations. Last year I wrote a coffee table book for an aviation company to celebrate 30 years in business. The book was given to employees and clients. It was a nice touch.

It’s inevitable: many of today’s practices will eventually become quaint and redundant — thanks to our insatiable hunger for ‘bigger and better.’ Regardless, the power of a good story will never diminish. I’m sure Bob Dylan will agree.

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  1. Hey Andrew,

    Boy do I ever agree with you about this.

    I’ve never had a great memory, maybe that’s because most of what I’ve heard, learning or been a part of just didn’t seem that important to me. But when you tell a story I do remember more of the details so I know this to be a fact.

    I also know that I’ve found things out through social media before it’s hit the news here. People are everywhere with their devices when things happen so it’s being caught in real time instead of waiting for a news reporter to be told of a story.

    The way things are changing, we have to keep up with the direction they’re going or we’ll keep doing the same things hoping to get different results. We all know how well that works right!

    Great share, thank you so much and I’ll be sure to share it as well.

    ~Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne, thanks for your awesome feedback. Everyone loves stories — I remember my son insisting on being read a story every night before going to bed. I think most kids are like that. And adults are no different; they just enjoy different kinds of stories.

  2. Points well made again Andrew. Adding things to your story that your audience can relate to i.e. naming local things and places we are familiar with, can add tremendous power to your story.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    First time visiting your blog. Adrienne Smith mentioned you in her post yesterday and I clicked on over from there.

    I have to agree with telling stories in business. I can say that makes a difference no matter what you’re talking about. In the offline world I sell products to eye doctors and every conversation I have is based around stories. The stories are specific examples of how their colleagues have used my product to solve a patient’s problem.

    Think about it for a second. When getting together with friends and family what do you usually do? Tell stories. Most of your interactions with others focus on a story as they are relatable to others.

    I enjoyed this post Andrew and will share on Twitter and Google+

    Kurt

    1. Hi Kurt

      Thanks for your feedback, and thanks for sharing — it’s good to hear from some of Adrienne’s readers.

      As you will know, when you feature products in a story, their benefits become real. Facts and figures become tangible solvers.

      Andrew

  4. Hi Andrew,

    I agree with you that things are always changing- that’s what makes change constant right!

    I also agree with you that the power of storytelling cannot diminish, it will forever remain effective.

    Storytelling has a way of connecting your readers to a post. It takes you through an unforgettable journey especially those we can relate to.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Just so you know, I stopped by from Adrienne Smith’s blog.

    Have a great day!

    1. Hi Kore

      Thanks for your feedback.

      I think of stories as packages for housing messages. I still recall the morals of stories I heard when I was a kid despite not remembering the details, like who was the reader or where I was at the time.

      I hope we can talk again soon.

      Andrew

  5. Andrew,

    I’ve been writing a lot about storytelling lately, and the science behind it, it’s amazing to see how powerful it really is. Anyway, this was an interesting read, so I’ll probably be back.

    Connor

  6. Hi Andrew,

    I found you through Adrienne Smith’s blog. Storytelling is such a powerful tool, isn’t it? It’s the ultimate “wheel”, since it hasn’t been reinvented, despite being around for thousands of years. Sure, it’s gone through iterations to improve how it’s told, but the mechanics of telling a story hold true today as they did many moons ago.

    I read on another blog that stories are powerful for engaging with readers because people cannot help but insert themselves into the stories that they are reading. That’s why people love fantasy and sci-fi. It’s like going on a holiday to Middle-Earth without the customs and baggage.

    The challenge is to utilise it in ways that your audience can relate to, building a relationship with them that sets positive expectations for your website.

    1. Hi Johnson

      Thanks for your feedback. Boy, Adrienne certainly has plenty of readers!

      You’re right: when we hear a story we do insert ourselves; we become one of the characters. When this happens, it is much easier to make an emotional connection with the people (and products/services) being written about.

      Andrew

  7. Hi Andrew,

    Another first-time visitor from Adrienne’s blog. I never really pay much attention to commercials so I didn’t really notice until you mentioned it that they do use stories. With that in mind, I think one of the benefits of using stories is that they sneak in under our radar because we don’t think of them as marketing and don’t resist them as much. Thanks for the great post.

    1. Hi Ben, thanks for your feedback. Stories do sneak under the radar — when told a good story we just relax and enjoy the ride. Much better than being force-fed a sales pitch, don’t you think?

    1. Hi Mario, thanks for your feedback. It’s nice to receive a comment from your part of the world. The stats that I referenced to the London School of Economics come from an article I wrote a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, when writing this post, I was unable to locate the original link. I’ve visited the school’s website and will try to locate it. If I can, I’ll add it to the post. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

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