Strategic Storytelling in Business

Stone Soup Strategic Storytelling Image.jpg

by Kristen Lowrey

If you own a small business, knowing how to tell your story is absolutely crucial. Strategic storytelling draws people in, it engages them with your brand and it creates a loyal and invested audience.

You might think you don’t really have a story to tell. You might think it’s just like everyone else’s, or perhaps not interesting or relatable. You’re wrong. In this world, you are the only one with your story.

You might think you don’t really have a story to tell. You might think it’s just like everyone else’s, or perhaps not interesting or relatable. You’re wrong. In this world, you are the only one with your story.

But it’s how you tell it that really matters. Successful brands understand the importance of strategic storytelling.

What is Strategic Storytelling?

What is strategic storytelling? Let me give you an example in the form of the folk story, Stone Soup.

Stone Soup: a folk tale

Once upon a time some travellers came to a village. They had no food, and were very hungry, but they did have a big cooking pot. They went door-to-door asking for the villagers to give them some food, but were refused at every turn.

So the travellers went to the centre of town where they filled their big pot with water, dropped a large stone in it and set it over a fire. Soon it was boiling rapidly and the curious villagers began to approach. ‘What are you doing?’ they asked.

‘We’re making stone soup’, the travellers replied. ‘It is the most delicious soup in the world, and we would be happy to share with you… though it would taste better with a carrot.’

‘I might have a small carrot’, one villager said, and dashed off to his home, returning soon with a few carrots. The travellers added these to the pot.

‘Oh this will be wonderful’, the travellers said adding, ‘though it would be a bit better with a potato.’

‘I might have an old potato or two’, said another villager. He soon returned with the potatoes and these were added to the pot.

Soon other villagers were dashing off and returning with various things for the pot – a bit of salt, a few turnips, some greens and more. As the soup became more and more aromatic, the villagers begin to bring out large tables, adding rounds of dark bread and bits of cheese to complement the soup.

When the soup was done, the travellers removed the stone and, good to their word, shared their soup with everyone in the village.

Stone Soup as a strategic story

That’s a nice story, but what’s the point? Well, consider this: are the travellers conmen who trick the villagers into sharing their food with them? Or are they moralists who teach the villagers that when everyone shares just a little bit, there is enough to go around? And does it matter?

It matters.

Let’s say I’m the traveller, and this story is how I started my small business, Stone Soup Co., a company that provides pre-made soup sachets to local food banks. In my story, the event with the villagers taught me the power of cooperation and the importance of social impact. It showed me the value in the profit-for-purpose model of business and informed my business-making decisions from that day on.

That is the story that your audience wants to hear. Who are you? Why are you doing what you are doing? What inspires you and your brand and what are you trying to achieve?

But if I let someone else tell my story, or worse yet, fail to tell my story at all so that my customers have to infer it, I might end up looking like a conman. Not good.

Balancing information with emotion

Strategic storytelling is balancing information with just the right amount of emotion. A great (and strategic) story is easy to understand and memorable, sticking in your audience’s mind where straight data would not. It is even better when it causes your audience to think and feel and motivates them to take action.

When you get right down to it, all business is a human endeavour. People who engage with businesses want to know who they are engaging with – the conman, or the moralist. They want to see themselves in the big picture. They want to hear your Stone Soup story. Through the telling of your own story in the right way, you can give this big picture to your audience and ensure engagement, investment and loyalty.

Kristen helps personal and professional brands tell their story. Contact her here.

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