Struggling to find a story for your campaign? Easily select and apply one from the four types of business story

Credit: Lacie Slezak

Credit: Lacie Slezak

“Surely this ‘differentiated value proposition’ and positioning stuff is all we need.”

Cry those who haven’t yet opened the Pandora's box of storytelling for business. They assume that stories are empty and meaningless.

They continue:

“If we understand our market and what our product does for them why do we need stories?”

And the kicker, they add:

“If we use storytelling we will just sound like everyone else.”

Incorrect. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Then growth flat lines. New, drastically different products are launched. Competition heats up. Speeds and feeds combined with founding passion are no longer enough.

You go to find a story to bring your campaign messaging to life.

Where do you start?

You start with the four types of story and why not only are the assumptions quoted above false they are an argument for the need of using storytelling in every business.

Let’s get that out of the way first.

Your product is a thing, a ‘prop,' in the story of your customer's life.

No one really cares about it. That’s right. Not even the new iPhone X. What do they care about? How they feel. What they can do with it. How it can make them more successful in their lives. And so on.

The product is just a gateway drug.

If you invented a product or service, you identified that some people’s stories just are not as good as they can be with your product. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Your ability to differentiate means understanding the other things in your customers' lives, the other stuff they could buy instead of your stuff.

As for sounding the same as everyone else?

Did Van Gogh give up because his early efforts at countryside painting failed? He only had the same color paints to use as everyone else to work with, after all. Or did he find ways to apply those paints in unique and exciting ways? Embracing then changing impressionism in a way that brought value that hadn’t been seen before?

If you paint by numbers, you’d be right; it would look the same as everyone else.

Take the paints. Grab the canvas. Make it your own.

Now. What about the different categories of stories?

  • Founder story.
  • Employee story.
  • Customer story.
  • Cultural story.

Boom! That’s it. We’ll talk about how to use them in a minute.

There is something else hiding inside of each. The seven categories of story. Each of your four areas can have any of these types. It’ll depend on your company, product, and customers.

  • Overcoming the monster
  • Rebirth
  • Quest
  • Journey & Return
  • Rags to Riches
  • Tragedy
  • Comedy

I enjoyed this Adweek article which poses the question on these types of story: Which one is your brand telling?

Founder story, rags to riches: There are so many, where to start? What we do for our clients is help research and pluck out founder stories that resonate with their specific audience. For example, George Soros survived the Nazi occupation and channeled his resilience and survival skills combined with his technical capabilities to be one of the most successful investors for all time. A story that is so successful that he’s a thorn in the side of some politicians.

Employee Story, Rebirth: Paul Otellini rose through the ranks of Intel to one day rule it. RIP Paul, who died October 3rd, 2017. He was running the microprocessor division when he was tapped to run sales and marketing, not his forte. But Intel leadership saw something in him, and their bet paid off. Let’s ignore the miss on smartphones. I say that with all due respect. I loved working at Intel. My father worked there from 1978 until the year he died (2015), and Intel was a massive part of our lives. Paul’s story inspired employee’s like me who wanted to one day be CEO of Intel. I ended up choosing a different path but, regardless his story motivated many.

Customer Story, Quest: New Belgium brewing. When at Microsoft we captured and shared the New Belgium story. In fact, my time running Customer Showcase and Case studies for Microsoft Dynamics was the tipping point of inspiration for forming Go Narrative. New Belgium is an employee-owned company, and their quest is not just good beer but in creating a fantastic environment for employees. Capturing and telling that story inspired countless other companies to bet on Microsoft Dynamics. The content drove a 42% increase in traffic growth and 10x the number of high-value engagements vs. standard material that focused on speeds and feeds vs. story.

The Cultural story, overcoming the monster: REI will help you survive the zombie outbreak. Culture and trends are closely aligned. They feed into each other. The Zombie trend is one that REI has capitalized. Culturally it is even more significant. A combination of survivalist culture, the growing fear of drug-resistant antibiotics, and increased awareness of the origin of killers like anthrax all contribute.

So, how can you use these?

I’m guessing you already have some ideas based on reading the stories above.

Think of your story as a filter. Look through the world through that screen and find stories or narratives that you can help with, align to or harness.

Are you trying to inspire employees?

Are you trying to win over new corporate clients?

Are you trying to get consumers to buy into a lifestyle?

These questions and more will help you define where to look. Ala Steven Covey “Begin with the end in mind.” Work back from there.

Once you have chosen the story or narrative (or both!) that make the most sense for your business objectives you need to harvest the story, capture it, document it. Find the related stories, the quotes, the examples to bring it to life. Then slice and dice that tale across a content marketing strategy.

With your content marketing plans, you will identify which place along the prospective customer journey makes the most sense to use which elements of the story.

Is it an infographic like the REI zombie one?

Perhaps it’s a modern-PR engagement that surfaces the zombie article.

Or it could be story-making experiences with an in-person class, like REI.

Before you know it your story is even being picked up by traditional-PR and mainstream earned media.

Like Van Gogh and his paints, the iterations are endless. So be careful. Be strategic. Focus on your goal.

And ruthlessly measure, test and adapt.

Your mission: go find one of each of the four types of story right now! Just capture the essence right now. Let me know how you get on and we can discuss each of the stories and how to best use that story for your next campaign.