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How To Use Storytelling In Business

You don’t need to be an author or scriptwriter to benefit from learning how to use storytelling in business. The much-loved guru of mythology, Joseph Cambell, believes in the ability of even the tiniest fairy tale to contain the powers to inspire you and stroke your soul. Tales, mythology, and symbolism are all around us, which means that it makes sense to tap into this human desire for inspiration in the business stories you create. 

You don’t need a definition of a story, but I want to share my meaning of a good story, followed by a great story and a few tips to help you create your own.

A good story is one that, through its character or event, moves us emotionally and makes us care.

Through an emotional connection, great stories inspire action and drive the audience to change something about themselves or the world around them.

Since you’re a business owner, your purpose is probably awareness or interest in your brand. Following awareness, an action could be a sale, a subscription, a follower, etc. The value in a great business story is inspiring someone to get up and do something. 

A great story will bring your customers closer to you; it will highlight a connection between you and them and help you stay on their minds.  So let’s aim for a great story, and to do this, I will look at the Greenpeace Rang-tan: The Story of Dirty Palm Oil advert of 2018.

Greenpeace Rang-tan Story  

Rang-tan: The Story of Dirty Palm Oil Christmas advert is the perfect example of a great story. It stirs emotion and fulfils its objective, as we’ll see below.  

The purpose of the advert was to raise awareness about the toxic impact palm oil farming has on the environment, and the CTA, at the end of the story, was to sign a petition.  

The short film received over 80 million views, and 1.2 million people signed the petition.  After seeing the movie, over 1000 schools got in touch for Greenpeace Training, and some companies, such as Selfridges and Ocado, reigned in their palm oil products. 

The two-minute, animated story was a sensational success. Let’s unpick some of the story elements that we can use in our business storytelling.  

And whether you are writing a fictional piece or taking something from real life, the points below will help you create a good story. 

Purpose and Call To Action 

We’re all time and budget-starved, so before we start to put in the effort to craft a story, we should be clear on purpose. So what is your purpose in telling this story?

For Greenpeace, it was to raise awareness of an issue. Perhaps you are in the health industry and helping people take the correct number of vitamins and minerals to live a vibrant life. 

Awareness might be the purpose of your story, with the call to action being a newsletter sign up.  These are two different things that both need an answer to.

Greenpeace

Purpose – to highlight to consumers the toxic effects of palm oil deforestation

CTA – sign a petition  

An Emotional Connection 

An emotional connection is a way you make the audience feel for your story or character. The emotional connection works best when it’s a universal feeling rather than something specific.  So if we were crafting a story about a severe allergic reaction, an emotional connection could be fear of the unknown– which everybody has experienced in their life, rather than the physical effects of suffering an allergy. 

Greenpeace 

Emotional Connection – the end of innocence, the fear of home invasion, the fear of losing your home

Themes 

Your theme for a business story is the subject of the story, not the subject of your business. It’s what happens in your created world and the questions that emerge. 

The Greenpeace theme is the destruction of the forest because of palm oil.  It’s also the loss of habitat that comes from deforestation.  We see the child and the orangutan experience disruption because of deforestation, and the themes grow. The events in the story link an inner and an outer world, and a holistic view of an interconnected universe emerges. What happens in the home affects the universe and the homes of others. 

Creating Characters 

When you know the emotional connection you want to make, it is time to develop characters that will help you deliver the punch. 

In the Greenpeace advert, they have selected two characters who represent innocence and drive home the idea that consuming palm oil is funding this deforestation which threatens the future of both the orangutan and the child.  Subjecting both characters to the fear and fire of the situation is a high impact emotional connection.   

What character can you create now that you know what your themes and emotional connections are?

The characters you create should relate to your audience. For example, the audience for the Greenpeace ad is children and consumers, those who make decisions about the products they buy.  

Story Structure 

The classic three or five-act structure aims to take the audience on a journey, resulting in change. Instead, we can take the simple idea of a beginning and an end, a character who experiences change. 

In the Greenpeace Ad, Rang Tan gets an ally to aid in his quest. He makes contact with a human, who has the power to stop deforestation.  This story is also hopeful. So the story movement is from despair to hope – two different worlds.

What’s the endpoint for your character, and how does it differ from where we first met them?

Where To Use Your Business Stories

Finally, if you’re all geared up to create your brand stories but unsure where to put them, below are a few ideas:

  • A branded microsite to advertise a new product or service
  • On your business home page
  • In your social media channels and content 
  • Digital content to market an event
  • In your blogging and content marketing materials
  • About You 
  • Case Studies

If you’re interested in reading more content related articles, check out this one on Creating Good Content For Your Website.

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve given you the starters for how to use storytelling in business.  I’m a copywriter and storyteller helping my clients get creative with their content. If you want a professional pair of hands to help create your story, drop me a line here.

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