Burning newspaper

What is a story when told by a business?

Have you noticed that the word STORYTELLING seems to be everywhere today? From something that used to be the domain of the primary school teacher (remember sitting on the carpet in front of your favourite teacher, as she slowly flipped the colourful pages of a picture book?), now storytelling is everything to everyone, from the art form of a slam poet to a marketing tool for a startup.

The art of the fiction story.

For years, I was working on a novel. Workshops, conferences, crit groups, events – I signed up to it all. I never did finish that book. But I learned a lot about fiction writing. I knew it would be incredibly powerful to incorporate the techniques of fiction writing into business marketing. ‘Is a ‘story’ different in this context, though?’, I wondered.

I struggled to find an answer when I started this storytelling for marketing journey six years ago. I read about why marketers should tell stories, the important historical role of storytellers over time, and what we could achieve for our businesses once we reshaped our social media as storytelling platforms.

What is a business story?

But what is the story itself, when told by a business? Is a story a series of incidents with a beginning, a middle, and an end, like a novel? A cautionary tale teaching society’s values, like a parable? Or a report of an interesting happening in the business?

A definition finally jumped out at me in a workshop with master storyteller-trainer Megan Spendlove. We were playing Spendlove and Lamb‘s unique interactive storytelling board game, when Megan explained that stories are not “the stuff that happened” but “messages that create a connection”.

Building community with content marketing.

Stories are messages that build community. This is the definition and the approach that inspires me today in my branding and content marketing work with small business owners. Today, we have the tools and resources to create more connections and build stronger communities than ever before.

Use your stories to bring your audiences closer to you – and each other. Develop your brand origin story, or backstory. Capitalise on the talents of your staff and clients to bring you stories you can use.

Use these stories to create a shared language you can communicate with. Use them to celebrate the individual or small achievements that resonate with deeper meaning for the whole group.

It might seem surprising, but when you step away from sales and trust in stories, you see authentic business evolution and growth.