Stories You Can Tell

superhero Marketing a product is hard. Think about it. If you’re the chief storyteller of Skype right now, what are you going to say about the product that will encourage more usage, more uptake, more awareness? The product is fairly solid, has a known set of features, and is one of a few “name brand” products in the Voice over IP space. So what can you say about it?

Companies face this trouble all the time. What will you say about Pepsi? How will you talk about the Ford Flex tomorrow? What should Titleist tell you about their Pro V1 balls?

The Stories You Can Tell

  • Talk about the people. Who drives a Flex?
  • Talk about success. Who used Pro V1 balls to change their game?
  • Talk about change. Did Pepsi help a community with an important project?

One often-used point of view for storytelling is of the newcomer. For instance, in the upcoming movie Coraline, the story features a young girl who discovers a mirror world where things are much darker and more strange. We see this world as she discovers it, from over her shoulder, so that we’re both discovering it, Coraline and you, at the same time.

Companies are looking at Blogger Relations programs like this. Find storytellers who can explore something and discover it with you over her shoulder. It’s a way to shut out the omniscient voice of marketing from above and to introduce the perspective of someone from the outside looking in.

If you’re Skype, maybe the story becomes how a small village in a corner of Romania learns how Skype connects them to the rest of the world. The story becomes about the people who bring the service to the village, and how things change with it in place. No part of the story talks about emoticons, video in mood, or any other features. It talks about humans and how they experience the product.

Tell Small Stories Well – Idea Handles

When I discover new things, I share what I learn. You probably do, too. When we learn new things, one way we retain them is by teaching others as soon as we have opportunity to do so. Can you tell small stories that come complete with “idea handles?”

Giving your ideas handles means that you create a small story that’s easy to understand, with a clear point, and an understandable value transfer. It’s brief, and snackable, and people can use it in different contexts. Here’s an example:

Glenda Watson Hyatt is a powerful voice advocating for people with disabilities. She has published a book, and keeps up a regular blog of useful information. One thing that makes Glenda unique is that she does this all using only her left thumb. Yes, the “left thumb blogger,” as some call Glenda, is a woman with determination, kindness, and a passion for helping people master the challenges of accessibility for all. Do you know someone who could benefit from knowing Glenda?

The story above is simple, easy to consume, and wrapped into a tiny package that you could take with you. Perhaps you know someone with a disability and it made you think of them. Maybe you’re wondering how well your company or product complies with issues of accessibility and you want to hire Glenda to help. But do you feel the handles of the story? Can you pick it up and run with it?

Look for Stories Everywhere

When you finish this post, stop and think. Where are the stories about your products, your services, your organization, you, the people or places you write about? How are you telling those stories? Are those stories useful? Do they resonate with people?

What comes next in all this is understanding how to move from talking about features into telling stories that make us want to be a part of them. And even when you’re not officially in charge of storytelling at an organization, it’s part of the job. It’s how we learn. It’s a powerful way to convey information. And it’s the way our brains are wired.

What stories do you tell? How do the new tools of the web enable new ways of storytelling? Do you see past the technology and into the human exchange?

Photo credit Kuripan

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