Everybody talks about it. It has become the key to communicating effectively with customers. Faced with ever more pervasive competition, it is an effective solution to stand out from the crowd and create a real difference. But also to create engagement.
What am I talking about ? Storytelling of course.
If you read this article, it is because you understood that it is no longer possible to do as we did 5 years ago. Communicate request a different approach and especially a method. But it’s complicated. What to say, how to say it and to whom?
So, I’m not Moses. And I’m not coming back from Mount Sinai. But I think it’s important to set a course of action to do it right. What I suggest to you is a list of commitments like the tables of the law to guide your way through narrative communication (to speak French).
1- You will not sell your story
All over the internet, you’ll find blog posts, videos, and websites to tell you that storytelling is telling your story. Which led you to start your business. What is called the mission, values and vision of your business. OK why not.
But do you really believe that it is the story of Steve Jobs that allows Apple to sell its iPhone? Or Nick Woodman’s for GoPro cameras? Besides, before reading this sentence, I’m sure you didn’t even know the name of the founder of this brand …
No, people make fun of your story. Because the only story that interests them is theirs.
Be careful, I’m not telling you that having a mission, values or a vision is useless when you create your box. On the contrary, it is very important. And you can do storytelling to talk about it, especially on the “About” page of your website. But to think that storytelling is just that, is to use 10% of the power of storytelling. It’s just seeing the tip of the iceberg.
Instead, you have to understand that this is not your story that you are selling, but a story that your customers will be able to identify with and project themselves using your solution for a better future. I don’t buy an iPhone because it was Steve who created it, but because it allows me to unleash my creativity by doing things differently and my way. I am not buying a GoPro because it was Nick who sold it to me, but because I too will be able to live the superb experiences that I see in the brand’s ads.
2- You will choose your People
The consequence of the first law is that you have to choose the people you talk to. Because the original sin of any entrepreneur is gluttony. You can’t say “no”. And you accept all ideas, all projects, all missions, all clients. Indiscriminately, for fear of missing out and wanting to assert your legitimacy.
As my grandmother said, if you try to seduce everyone, you will not please anyone. In storytelling, it’s the same thing.
The important thing is to choose. Choose the right people to tell this story to. Who are they ? Where do they live? What is their experience? How do they communicate? How do they find out? What are their beliefs? What are their fears? What are their expectations ?
Answering these questions will, for example, provide you with cultural references (cinematographic, literary, musical) on which to rely to speak to them. But it will also allow you to better understand the issues behind the relationship you want to create with this audience.
Choosing does not mean excluding, but prioritizing. By defining your target heart, using personas, you will know who this Sabrina is who you want to talk to and who represents your ideal client. Once this is done, you can speak to all the Sabrina in England. And believe me, the market is already large!
3- You will not lie
It is often believed that lying is not betraying. That certain lies are tolerable, even necessary. Besides, according to an English study published recently, men would lie 6 times a day (only 3 times for women …).
But it is to forget that to do storytelling is to tell a story. And the story is built above all on the emotional receptivity of those who listen to it. Put simply, people may forget what you told them, but not how they felt when they listened to you. We don’t play with people’s emotions.
It is for this reason that the first characteristic of a storytelling is authenticityé. The story you tell must be true.
So, often, people say to me: “yes, but I’m not doing anything exceptional, my story will be spicy!”. And I answer that there is no need to do anything extraordinary to get out of the ordinary. You’re not writing the next Marvel!
If your story is really inspired by the daily lives of the people for whom it is intended, then you will touch them. Because they will recognize themselves and be moved by what you tell. The important thing is not so much what you say, but what people will hear and understand.
4- You will not steal
If you created your box, chances are that ten thousand people had the same idea as you and sold a similar solution. It’s painful, but it’s like that. More and more of us want to live on our passion or our talent. Creating a difference therefore becomes increasingly difficult.
And the temptation to “borrow” content from other people is easy. This can be seen, for example, in social media posts or blog articles. Nothing new under the sun and everything looks the same. It’s the same with the products and services sold.
So how do you create originality? Well, the originality is you. And as Seth Godin says, if your competitive advantage is your personality, then you have no competition. Because there is only one or one like you. It’s you !
Rather than stealing content that seems more interesting to you, you have to cultivate your own sensitivity, your own personality. What do we say about you? Why are people coming to get you? What are you asked to do?
Maybe you have a gift to make people laugh? Or a soul of poetry? Or an ability to put people in touch? Or a talent for finding solutions? How to use this in your storytelling and your business? Once found, then you will no longer think of “borrowing” from others. And it is even the others who will come to inspire you!
5- You will not disperse
It’s true, everything is going faster. Too fast. So we want to do more, say more. So when you communicate, you fill your time with more and more examples, facts, words and evidence. You think it will give credibility to your posture and reinforce your message. But alas, there is nothing more wrong.
8 seconds is the average time a visitor spends on the first page of your website before leaving. And 30 seconds is the attention he’ll give you when you talk to him at a party before you forget about it.
So you have to change your tune. You don’t have to say everything, but only what is worth understanding. What footprint do you want to leave for the people who listen to you?
I’m talking about footprints because I find the image strong. An imprint is the trace left by a shoe in the sand. The shoe that covers a foot. The foot that supports a body. The body that is a person’s envelope. The person who thinks this idea is specific. Of all that, once the person leaves, there will only be one thing left: the fingerprint.
Choosing your imprint is betting on one content rather than another. It is to claim specificity and a difference. Not just to express who you are, but above all to tell the story that will reach your audience where you know you have to go.
6- You will not go too fast
It is also a consequence of the previous observation. Our world is accelerating and we think we should go fast. But if you want things to last, then you have to understand that it is important to take your time.
So, I imagine you smiling and saying to you: “but since there is only 30 seconds of attention in this individual before he forgets me, I must quickly present my solution to him, no ?”
Well no. Becausepeople will only listen to or read your solution if they feel concerned enough to do so. In other words, it is identification that will create attention. Not the speed of your speech or the fluency of your speech.
So, to promote this identification, details are needed. These details that remind us of our daily lives and link the stages of our life. Thanks to the details and this identification, you will create a psychological anchor in the heads of those who listen to you and read you. You’re going to open a door, arouse their curiosity and make them want to know more. Only then will they be ready to listen to your solution.
It is for this reason that in storytelling as elsewhere, it takes foreplay. We call it the hook. Part of the text that talks about the daily life lived by the hero of history. It’s this catchphrase that makes you want to go to the end of the text or speech. So think about it the next time you have something to say or write: what will be the catchphrase?
7- You will feed your culture
The specter of the blank page. When you start writing, it’s often the black hole. What to say ? What to start with ? Is what I have to say interesting enough to say? And how can we say it to reach those for whom it is intended?
These are questions and concerns that come up regularly in the mouths of people who start out in storytelling. And each time, my answer is the same. Practice is the key. And to get there, you already need a supportive environment.
But what am I talking about? The environment is the soil you will have to tap to write. And there, I’m sorry, but there is no escape route. You have to nurture your personal culture. That is to say: watching movies, opera or theater, reading books and listening to music. From all horizons and all currents.
Since storytelling is about words and emotions, you have to open your heart and your sensitivity. The brain is not left out, but it is not he who should lead the boat. The technique can be learned (we sometimes speak of copywriting), but the feeling is specific to each and is cultivated.
Storytelling was born with the stories that we have been telling ourselves since humanity started. Be the first audience of these stories and see what they stir in you. By reading these stories, you will develop your knowledge of people, their emotions and what carries them. To complete this, it will also be necessary to be a little sociologist and we will see it in the law n ° 10.
8- You will banish technical jargon
Generally, we create an activity around a specialty, a talent or an expertise. It’s the best way to be successful, but not always. And this reason for being is often accompanied by its own language and code. All trades have their vocabulary. All activities have their uses.
It’s a logical way to communicate between professionals in the field. Our language is rich and it’s okay to use the right words. As a narrative communication professional, I can only accept and defend this. But, I see a limit to it.
This technical and specific vocabulary isolates us. It creates an invisible barrier between us and those we want to reach. Without even realizing it, we annoy them. And they go away. We think it legitimizes our expertise, but the opposite happens.
Hubert Reeves says that knowledge is only useful if it is shared by everyone. And to do that, the only way to do it is to speak simply. But simplicity does not mean simplistic. Simplicity means: concise and essential. Like a proverb or a quote.
When I say “one hold is better than two you will have”, it is both simple and powerful. Nothing can be removed and with a few words, you can change a life. This should be the story you tell: simple and powerful. It must use the words of those for whom it is intended and convey an idea to which they can adhere, included in their daily lives.
9- You will look for the narrative angle
We speak, we tell and we dissertate, in an academic and academic way. Because that’s how we learned to do it. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Or chronological sequence. Or from general to specific. Or the opposite. In short, agreed and without interest.
It’s not what you want for your story, is it? Don’t you rather want a tasty story, which asks questions, which makes react and inspire those for whom you wrote it? If this is what you want, then I have an essential tool for you: the narrative angle, that is to say the bias you choose to tell your story.
We could compare that to the camera that records the film. It gives an angle of view on the stage which is played. And according to this angle, the perception will be different. Some things will be seen and others ignored. The reality, although authentic, will therefore be subjective. But it will provide information on what the director wanted to convey.
The narrative angle in storytelling is the choice you make to tell the story. It’s the backbone that will allow you to sort out what you’re going to talk about and what you’ll say nothing about. This is how you are going to approach the important elements. And that’s also what will allow you to envision a tone and a style for this story.
This is an essential element in writing a blog article or an oral presentation to an audience. The angle will make the difference between content that will go unnoticed and content that will leave a lasting impression.
10- You will love people (yes, really!)
Finally, it is impossible to imagine a story without characters. They are the ones who give life to what you are going to tell. And this is also what your audience will want to read, because these characters will be essential for proper identification.
So, to put life and characters in your story, there is no secret, you have to love people. For what they are and transmit. That means you have to be able to listen to them. Not to answer them, but simply to understand them. Sit on the terrace of a cafe to watch them live their lives. Not out of voyeurism, but out of sociological interest.
It’s wonderful to watch people live their lives, because it is rich in lessons. We understand better what we are and what drives us. These are the little gestures, the smiles, the looks, the good words and the attentions.
To do storytelling is to study the human race. It is to become the reporter of our lives. It’s understanding this world around us, in all its colors. Cold and hot, sad and wonderful.
This is to understand that the story you write is only yours when you tell it. But once heard, it no longer belongs to you. She continues on her way and will feed the discussions of all these others. And that’s why they’re the ones you need to love, not just the story you’re telling…
Here we are at the end of the road. Of course, it is not finished. I would even say that it is just beginning. Because, this story no longer belongs to me. I pass it on to you with sincerity and humility. It’s up to you to write now.
And don’t listen too much to all of these storytelling professionals with their commanding stories to follow. Because all the rules deserve to be broken to unleash the creativity that lies dormant in you.
About the Author
Franck GIL: Communicating is never simple, yet it is essential. Whether to present his trade, his product or his business. Thanks to storytelling, I support entrepreneurs to enable them to sell their know-how and their products more efficiently. I also help them in the construction of their public speaking. Check out my latest white paper.
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