How To Structure A Business Story… And Why!
August 4, 2015 Leave a comment
You are about to write a business story. How are you going to structure the fundamentals of your story?
- Is there a villain – a Antagonist?
- Is there a hero – a Protagonist?
- Are you trying to instill opportunity, or happiness or sympathy for your product, service or fundraiser?
- Will your story have an outcome that you define, or are you going to leave it for your audience to decide?
- Whose moral values are you expressing – and what moral values?
It’s true… business story writing is difficult. Even when writing business stories these are important decision to make before you begin – or be ready for many rewrites and lots of frustration. Often these stories are written – or at least edited – by committee. If you don’t have agreement on the structure fundamentals you will be handicapping yourself and your reputation.
Your Competitive Advantage
Business stories are likely your best (and often underused), competitive advantage because you have an exciting, creative way to share with customers / prospects why they want your product/service.
Stories are fantastic for sharing information, for entertainment, for history and helping others learn. But hold on – why do we use stories? Use business stories because humans love story telling. We do it all the time.
- We tell people how our weekend was – that’s a story.
- We tell people about the project we are working on at work – that’s a story.
- We tell people about the sales call and what the clients need are – that’s a story.
We likely began using stories when we were cavemen (cave people?), and began sharing stories about good places to hunt – or bad places for predators – or the tribe down the lane who had fire and was making S’mores.
Create Excitement To Be Remembered
After you’ve determined your story fundamentals, plan your pace. If you have a hero, do they come from behind and certain failure to do the things you want him to do? How can you build the tension – the excitement?
In the story of David & Goliath your excitement and interest grows because David looks like he is going to lose the battle. Then, when he rises from failure to win over Goliath we cheer and feel great. This exciting pace creates exciting stories (and your products, services or cause), will be remembered.
A good story is going to stir your emotions. High impact engagement where you get caught up because it’s likely rooted some type of conflict / challenge.
Use Metaphors To Engage Imagination
Another element you can use to keep a clients interest in your business story is a metaphor. Consider what metaphors can you use to create pictures / images in your clients imagination? You can use that metaphor to also evoke emotion. For example, here’s a 2 line story: “Looking up at the seemingly never-ending staircase, Richard thought this must be the stairway to heaven. After a deep sigh, he lifted his cane and took his first step”
- Is Richard old or young?
- Why is Richard using a cane?
- Is he standing tall or hunched over?
- Is Richard determined, excited or resigned? What did it mean when he sighed?
- Did you feel sympathy or curiosity?
- What colour is his hair?
- What nationality is he?
- Are the stairs in a house or office building – or are they floating in clouds?
Our imaginations can fill in most of the detail… and they likely did as you read my 2 line story… and this is a good thing. I’ve given you just enough information to help you make it real… for you. However, I have to be careful not to give you too much room for creativity because I don’t want you to make a decision I don’t want you to make.
For example – if I’m not careful you might decide Richard is young, lazy and irresponsible… which is a problem if I’m writing a fundraising letter and I want you to feel sympathy because he is a young army veteran who has been injured in service to his country.
Business stories are great ways to spread crucial information to one or to many. We can’t help but love stories – we welcome information and remember information much better when it is wrapped in a good story. Stories let us feel.
Happy communicating, learning and business story writing.
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Bruce Mayhew is founder and President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting a Professional Development firm that excels at quickly and easily tailoring programs to meet the unique needs of our clients and their employees. In addition to being an effective professional development trainer, Bruce is a popular conference speaker, writer and has been featured on major TV, Radio and Newspaper networks ranging from CTV to Global to The Globe & Mail.
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