Storytelling is essential in driving your business to success.
In our previous blog, “The Power of Telling a Story”, we said that storytelling is a powerful tool in delivering any message to your audience. It draws them in, keeps them listening, and leaves them with a lesson that they can carry with them for a lifetime.
But of course, not all stories will have that impact on their audience.
Storytelling is a form of art. A good story is one that will immerse its audience into its world, in the world of a hero that they could empathise with. A good story is one that lingers in their minds long after it is told.
While there is no definite way to tell a successful story, there have been structures and techniques made through the years that have proven to be effective.
The Entrepreneur’s Journey
One of the most reliable plot structures that have been used through the years is found in mythologist Joseph Campbell’s book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” We call it the Hero’s Journey.
The Hero’s Journey follows the familiar pattern of the protagonist leaving his home to go on an adventure, encounter challenges, fight the main villain, and come home a changed and far better person—a hero if you will.
In telling a story as an entrepreneur, the same formula can be used. By following this, you can tell their business story in a way that answers these questions:
1. What led you to business?
Introduce your protagonist by giving a quick background—did you come from a poor or rich family? What were you like before you decided to start a business? To appeal to the audience, make yourself as relatable as you can.
When you’ve established your background, tell your audience what made you think to start a business.
- Was it a long-time dream?
- Was there something that inspired you to take that leap of faith?
- What opportunities did you see?
Show that it was you who recognised that you needed to make something of yourself to improve your circumstances.
2. What challenges did you face?
Starting a business is never easy. After that ‘eureka’ moment, the cons of starting a business sometimes tend to become overwhelming, and maybe sometimes even overpower the pros.
- What held you back at first?
Share these initial challenges and tell your audience what was it that made you push through regardless.
Now that you’ve started your business, chances are there have been many bumps in the road. Talk about those that forced you to make very crucial decisions. Talk about that time where your business was at risk of failing. This is where your story’s main conflict would lie. Raise the stakes and the tension in your conflict, because this is what will keep your audience hanging on to every word you say and anticipating what happens next.
3. How did all these challenges change you?
Remember to highlight internal conflict. How did the problem affect you as a person? A character becomes a hero not just because they had to face a lot of challenges, but also because they have undergone development and transformation throughout the story.
- What flaws did you manage to change in yourself?
- Did these challenges make you braver?
- Did they make you more determined? More diligent and hardworking?
- Did it teach you to be kinder and more selfless?
To quote Zeus from Disney’s Hercules, “A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”
4. Why are you the best at helping your customers?
With your business going strong and with you having gone through your own transformation in becoming a better person, it is important to emphasise that you want to give back and help others become achievers too.
Ask yourself, how can you play a supporting role in their success story?
How do you tell a good story?
With all these elements in mind, the challenge now is how to tie them all together into something smooth and coherent. The flow of the story is always one that people struggle with. Some tend to go in circles, others fail to properly tell their stories chronologically, while some simply don’t know where to start.
Here are tips on how to tell your story in a comprehensible and interesting manner:
1. Start with a Hook
Your hook is your story opener. Make sure it’s interesting because this is your weapon in grabbing the attention of your audience.
There are various ways to craft your hook. You could start with a quote, a question, a fun fact, or a scenario that your audience could easily picture themselves in. It could be anything, as long as it’s interesting and hints at what your story is about, but remains mysterious enough to keep them curious for more.
2. Follow the inverted pyramid structure
The inverted pyramid is the most common structure of writing used in journalism. This structure arranges the sequence of your story from “need to know” to “nice to know”.
This format is beneficial to both the storyteller and the audience, because the audience can stop at any point of the story, and with the most important parts of it already told at the start, they can still leave with the message you as the storyteller wanted them to keep.
The inverted pyramid can be divided into three major parts:
a. Most Important Information
Apart from your creative hook, you must make sure that your first few sentences establish answers to the “5 W’s and H”: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. By answering these as concisely as possible, you manage to set the scene for your audience, but also leave out details that they would want to know but could only find out about further into the story.
b. The Main Story
This is the body of your story. It should include details to further explain how the scene in your lead came to be. Build your argument and make your points here. Raise the tension so your audience will cling onto every detail you put out. Explain the step-by-step process of how your character resolved their conflict. Build a bumpy road for your audience to take, to keep the story exciting.
The body of your story should have the rise, the climax, and the fall of your story. It should also further the message or lesson you want your audience to take with them.
c. Additional Information
The tail would contain extra information that is relevant to your story but not so important, such as additional references that they could turn to if they want to know more.
As an extra tip, follow the inverted pyramid even within your paragraphs. Just as you start your entire story with a lead, it would be best to frontload each paragraph as well.
3. Remember: Don’t make “yourself” the hero
Even if you are sharing your own successes, your own challenges, your entire story to your audience, remember that you are telling your story for their sake and not your own. Shape your story in such a way that your audience can somehow feel like they are the main character. Make your character relatable.
What matters to the audience is not the protagonist itself, but what the audience can learn from the experiences relayed and how they can apply it in their own lives to improve themselves and reach their own goals.
Remember that your objective as a storyteller is to deliver an important and useful message that you want others to remember, and your story is simply your method of achieving that.
What are examples of good stories?
We all know of great stories that have stuck with us for as long as we can remember. But there are those that we count as timeless, such as the fairy tales we still tell children today—the very same ones our own parents told us, and legends and epics from centuries ago that are still retold today, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey dated way back to the 8th century, BC.
In modern literature, we find that book giants like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings are among the most popular fantasy novels ever written. Harry Potter alone had sold over 400 million copies and had been translated in 67 languages, The Lord of the Rings quickly became the standard of fantasy novels upon its release in the 1950s, and both had become cultural icons of 21st Century cinema.
Despite the overlap in genre, they are vastly different in their plots and worlds, but they do have some similar elements that made both stories legendary in their own right.
Both set the beginning scenes in the protagonist’s hometowns and families, bringing us right into something that we can find relatable and easy to immerse in, fantastical as the worlds seem to be. Frodo and Harry are both good-hearted orphans, already making them sympathetic characters from the start.
Both stories are also filled with multiple conflicts and sources of tension, particularly their main villains who are ever-present in each instalment. The villains are known to be feared by their respective worlds to the point where their names are taboo. The fact that they are almost impossible to defeat throughout the story only tightens the tension plot progresses.
There are many more components, similar and contrasting, in both stories that make them fascinating, thought-provoking, and memorable, such as plot devices, supporting characters and world-building. But the most important aspect is how the protagonists themselves are written. Frodo and Harry both had outstanding character development, and despite their glaring flaws, they became the lauded heroes that we wanted to be. Throughout their respective stories, we witnessed both protagonists flourish and demonstrate their bravery, sacrifice, loyalty, compassion, determination, love, and even morality. Through their transformations, as they faced their own trials, witnessing them succeed had been more than cathartic and satisfying for their emotionally invested audiences.
Overall, these two stories delivered their messages perfectly by executing the Hero’s Journey in their own outstanding manners.
Great Storytelling in Marketing
Of course, the stories that you can tell your audiences don’t need to be as long or as fantastical as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, but even your stories as an entrepreneur can be as memorable if you make use of the story elements and tips we discussed.
In marketing, telling a great story will help drive your audience to build trust in you and your brand, eventually turning them into loyal customers and supporters, who may even share your stories to others. It is your job to make sure that your business is there to help them make their lives better.
To improve how you tell your stories, join our workshop. Story League offers six months’ worth of stories for your marketing channels and content strategies to execute them.
Remember: it is not what you say, but how you say it that makes your story memorable.