Carefully Crafted on November 24

The Art of Storytelling: Inspired by Starbucks

Whether you love Starbucks or hate it, the coffee behemoth is using the holiday season to remind us of an important lesson: Stories are meant to be shared.

The art of storytelling can be tricky though, especially in business. Do customers want to hear all the ins and outs? (A boss once told me once that people want the sausage … not the details of how the sausage is made.) Would your prospects be more receptive to testimonials and case studies? Do they want to hear your personal story, or the company’s commitment to the community?

What makes a compelling story? And, more importantly, what makes that story resonate, spread and incite action?

Some advice inspired by Starbucks’ holiday marketing campaign:

  • Understand the power of details. When writing newsletter copy, I had an editor once explain that the difference between good copy and bad copy is found in the details. Use details to paint a picture, but ….
  • Be succinct. If the story starts to drag on, you’ll lose people’s attention.
  • Offer metaphors. Don’t just talk hypothetically. Offer an example to help someone relate.
  • Resist the “me, me me” urge. Geoff Livingston posted a challenge of sorts yesterday on his Facebook page: Could bloggers blog without using the words me, myself, or I? Point being: Don’t focus on you. Focus on the audience.
  • Connect the dots. As the storyteller, we may think something seems obvious; but that doesn’t mean it is obvious. Help your audience understand the connections from Point A to Point B and how that relates to the larger picture.

From a PR perspective, much of what we do is storytelling. For example, we tell stories (read: pitches) to journalists in hopes that they’ll share the story with their audience. Likewise, we use social media to communicate stories directly with consumers. Here’s a challenge: Think about everything you’re doing as one big storytelling experience. How does that change your approach?


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