Stories are powerful

Stories are powerful.

They can change the way we think, act, and feel.

When told well, stories can capture our imagination, compel us to act, create empathy, and make things real in a way that cold, hard facts cannot.

Story-telling is not limited to children’s books, radio dramas, ballads, theatre and film. It can extend to business where story-telling is used to tell the story of it’s history, values, success, staff, customers and journey toward greater growth.

There are many well-known examples of businesses and personalities that are known by rich storytelling, such as:

  • Richard Branson (the rebel billionaire)
  • Rockefeller (rags to riches)
  • Facebook (the story of Facebook’s beginnings is far more exciting than a description of how it works, its financial success or organisational structure)
  • Microsoft (one of the greatest business stories of all time)
  • Oprah (from farm girl to troubled teenager to talk show host).

Have you seen the movie You’ve Got Mail? It is one of my favourite movies (see plot here). In the movie, Kathleen (Meg Ryan) runs a small bookstore handed down to her by her mother called The Shop Around The Corner. The shop is a great example of story telling.

The shop was well-known as the loved children’s book store started by Kathleen’s mother. In the movie it is still seen as a beautiful wonderland filled with imagination, warmth, passion, children and books (see picture at the beginning of this post). These characteristics along with the history of the store all form part of its story.

The story of the shop is consistently told through its customer service, store décor, media coverage, advertising, word of mouth and even the story-telling costume worn by Kathleen at the shop’s regular story-telling time.

The story-telling makes The Shop Around The Corner different to ‘a children’s book store’ and instead makes it a magical must-visit and cultural icon. People connect to the warmth of the store and feel a part of the story. How could you buy books for children elsewhere after seeing the story told in various ways?

How can you use story-telling in your business?

  • Communicate who your business is and what it does through clever story-telling.
  • Make sure your business has a clear personality. Are you sophisticated, wise, tongue-in-cheek, trusted, innovative, old-fashioned or cutting edge? A messaging workshop is designed to discover your business personality and communicate it in a way that positions your business well (Good Business Consulting has a tailor-made session for SMBs and sole operators if you’re interested).
  • Liven up your bio, history and ‘about us’.
  • Use elements of story-telling to explain concepts. For example, one of my clients Rick Mapperson uses the image of oxygen masks to describe forward planning for small business here.
  • Tell stories in your marketing material, media interviews, advertising etc. Here is a example of story-telling in advertising from Chevron:
  • Make sure every aspect of your business communicates the same story, from your customer communication to your branding to your sales process.

In next week’s post I will share with you some of the questions from our story-telling and messaging workshops that we use to clearly articulate the story of a business. From that you can start to develop a matrix of messages that you can use in everything, including your marketing material and discussions about your business.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about your business story. What story does your branding and customer experience tell about your business?

9 thoughts on “Stories are powerful”

  1. This is a really important topic, Phoebe. Thank you for raising it. It’s something that I would love to discuss with you in more detail.

    The only thing I would add to your excellent post is to “Keep telling your story again and again – especially as you write new chapters!”.

    Great work,

    Robin 🙂
    Helping YOU succeed in business.

  2. My tag line is Catherine White connects and creates worth through powerful story telling.

    I believe we are born storytellers, it’s in our DNA.

    Ancient civilizations handed down their lineage through stories. Spiritual leaders teach profound truths through the story.

    Which is what I love about stories, they are a medium that bypasses the head, and connects with the heart.

    Such a fabulous topic, thank you for this post.


  3. Great post, Phoebe, and very timely as I was learning from a very wise friend last week about NLP and the power of story-telling. She’s been on a one-year course to learn about it, which seems like a lot, so I’ll be interested to learn more from you in the short term!

    Sounds like you’re a pretty experienced story-teller too, just reading this post had me engrossed!

    Thank you
    Helping you live your dream life

  4. Oh Phoebe, how did you know that I just LOVE cups of tea – virtual or otherwise 🙂

    Wow – I hadn’t realised I’d ‘told you a story’ but I guess I did… you’re right. I can see I am going to have to give this a bit more thought. In fact, just two minutes ago I put the phone down from being interviewed by my local paper (The Manly Daily) – I am hoping I told a good story there!

    I’ve forwarded your post on to my wise friend, mentioned above, as I am sure she will be interested too.

    Helping you live your dream life

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