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Why Storytelling Will Be Your Competitive Advantage During Reopening

Kindra Hall, author of Stories that Stick and host of The Back to Business Virtual Leadership Summit

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with the power of story.

For a decade, my job has been to help companies craft stories that inspire people to work for them and do business with them.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, those tasks have become more challenging.

How do you motivate your employees to work from home while they’re raising kids, struggling with productivity, and managing new technologies?

Why would customers engage with your company when the financial landscape is so uncertain?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve seen storytelling emerge as the answer to those questions. For example:

  • Dr. Birx communicated the necessity of social distancing to the American public by telling a story about her grandmother who never forgave herself for bringing the Spanish flu home, infecting her own mother.
  • John Krasinski brought together a cast of characters to tell the story of a Maryland couple who ripped off The Office engagement scene for the start of their own happy ending.

In these instances, and many more, storytelling captured attention, influenced, and transformed audiences.

In a few weeks, I’ll be at the Back to Business Virtual Leadership Summit showing leaders, managers, and small business owners how to create their comeback story so they can take full advantage of the radically different business world to come.

If you haven’t signed up yet, you can get your FREE ticket here → 

But today, I wanted to share with you exactly how storytelling will get you, your employees, and your company through these sometimes dark, and almost certainly uncertain, times…

  1. Help your audience escape, gain their attention.

“How do you suggest we incorporate a long-form story when our audience has an attention span shorter than a goldfish?”

The question posed to me by a few marketing executives revealed the subtle belief that the marketer’s relationship with an audience’s attention has to be a challenged one.

But, in fact, when done correctly, attention doesn’t have to be stolen or wrestled away. It is given. Freely, willingly, and in many cases, without the audience realizing it’s happening.

As the teller tells the story, the listener is taking the words and adding their own images and emotions to them.

Researchers have explored this aspect of storytelling, calling the experience of losing oneself in a story “narrative transportation” and even claiming one of the negative aspects of storytelling is, when we are truly transported into a story, we lose awareness of our immediate surroundings.

For a business that wants to capture attention following a crisis that has demanded almost 24/7 recognition, however, you want your audience to lose awareness of their own fears so you can build trust.

  1. Show your audience before you tell them, eliminate their objections.

With story, resistance dissipates.

Researchers have tested this as well, determining that, as audiences lose themselves in a story, their attitudes change to reflect the story minus the typical scrutiny.

With story, we don’t need to taste the food to want to go to the restaurant or smell the cologne to want to buy a bottle.

Imagine how powerful a story could be in time when people might feel less inclined to visit physical locations to shop.

Imagine how much easier it would be to get your team on board with a change with an effective story.

A story allows people to fall in love with the product, appreciate the value of the service, understand the rationale behind the process, and feel compelled to act.

  1. Transform your audience to a new state, leave a lasting impact.

Have you ever left a movie theater and felt like the story followed you home and stayed with you for a while?

Research has also determined that, once an audience emerges from the story, they are changed. And not just for a minute or two; the effects are long-lasting.

A well-told story doesn’t just convert into a sale. It converts into fans.

If you’ve seen the movie Pay It Forward, you know the domino effect one random act of kindness can have.

One good story could turn into an immeasurable number of new listeners.

The task of bridging the gaps in business can appear to be transactional, with the goal being simply to get customers and stakeholders from point A to point B.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day functions and responsibilities, to lose touch with the bigger, more noble cause beneath it all, which—call me an optimist—I believe is always there, no matter how dry the work may seem to be.

Refocusing the message on that noble cause taps into the transformative power of storytelling.

Will you tell your story of these times?  

A few months ago, I had a coronavirus breakdown. Yes, my family had their health... but I feared everything I worked for was gone.

I left the apartment, sat on a lawn in Central Park and cried.

A stranger saw me, approached me and, from a distance, shared stories with me to help calm me down. "It will all be okay," she said.

And she was right. Despite the ups and downs, everything is okay.

As states begin to lessen restrictions and businesses adjust to the new normal, I encourage you to share stories that show your audiences everything will be okay. We’re alright. We will prevail.

Good luck, happy storytelling, and I hope to see you at the Back to Business Virtual Leadership Summit starting June 8th.

- Kindra Hall

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