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How to Solve the Biggest Problems with Corporate Storytelling

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The most beautiful curve is the graph of rising sales.  If you look back on the times you were riding high on a beautiful sales curve (sales rising) or crashing on an ugly sales curve (falling sales) – [It should be noted at this point that every business person, entrepreneur, founder, manager or similar titles have all ridden the ups and downs roller coaster of such sales curves] - there is one thing that is in common - corporate storytelling.

At the very heart of success lies the story. Your organizational stories are some of the most important assets your organization has.  Like Mission and Vision Statements, they tell the world (internal, external, and yourself) who you are, where you came from, and where you are going. Our Story

A story is critical to you as an individual and also as an organization - no matter what size organization or stage of development. For the entrepreneur, your story is sometimes the only thing you have to sell and yet it can be more powerful than the largest client list, portfolio, or product catalog.

Don’t forget most buy decisions are not logical but emotional. The rules for corporate identity, branding, advertising, marketing, and sales have all changed over the past few years. These elements have become mainly emotional. The world has changed from function over form (how it works versus how it looks) to form over function (I really do not care how it works, just that it works but I am very motivated by how it looks) This change is extremely important. People today buy based on brand not product – and part of every brand is a story.

Corporate Storytelling - Some of the characteristics of an organizational story:

  • Appeals to the heart and spirit – emotional – sales is emotional
  • Intuitive – emotional – sales is emotional
  • Provides a holistic view – emotional – sales is emotional
  • Demonstrates a desire to be unique, creative – emotions – sales is emotional
  • Is shared in hot, poetic language – emotional – sales is emotional
  • Draws people – emotional – sales is emotional

So what do you do?  To help answer that we present our 7 corporate story telling axioms:

  1. Every person every organization has a story. Clients, employees, and investors all look for quality and return on their investments – but what keeps them loyal and supportive is your story. In fact what one uses to measure a strong brand is: Perceived Quality, Brand Awareness, and Brand Loyalty.
  2. The story must be alive throughout the organization.Everyone must know it, feel it, see it, and tell it. Stories can change a job into a career, and a career into a destiny. Studies have shown that employees who work for organizations with strong stories often work harder and for less pay. If you ask them why they put so much into what they do and not work someplace else – their answer is usually given as a story.
  3. Every organization needs leaders who believe in the story, can share the story, and live the story. There is much discussion today on the difference and importance of leaders versus managers – that is another presentation – but the main difference that keeps leaders on the track of being agents of change versus handlers of complexity is their role as organizational story tellers. For entrepreneurs and start up companies, it is probably the most important task of the founder.
  4. Spend time on crafting your story. We are often asked how one can dwell in the realm of their story when they are worrying about meeting payroll, paying rent and electric, paying your suppliers, collecting monies, cash flow, arguing with the insurance companies, more customers, ugly sales curves, etc? First of all you cannot afford not to tell your story. Here is a key secret to success: Spend at least 15 minutes a day telling your story.
  5. Always have in your mind a picture of at least two steps ahead in terms of picturing your story or projects. Be able to explain not only were your organization will be at its next stage but also the stage after that. Using Walt Disney as an example, he always had at least the next two projects well thought out in his own mind's eye and was able to talk about it. Recently discovered documents showed that as far aback as 1932 Walt had written memos dealing with Mickey Mouse land that eventually grew into Disneyland. He sold these ideas by telling stories.
  6. Proactively Share Your Story. An organization and its leadership must always be in the act of telling its story. Like every other example of business success there was/is one thing in common – either we were telling our story or we stopped. If you stop telling your story, someone else will tell it – mainly your competition. The biggest mistake you can make is believing you do not have a story. The single most important role of a founder, CEO, office manager, sales person, visual communicator or entrepreneur or whatever title you have is the role of Chief Storyteller. Read "Sharing Your Vision Through Corporate Storytelling".

Think of corporate story telling this way:

  • Marketing as educating your customer in your story
  • Training – educating your employees in your story
  • Reporting – educating your management, owners, and other stakeholders in your story.
  1. Constantly implement your story-telling in all that you do.Starting from establishing your MISSION AND STORY statements, through your strategic and marketing plans, through Branding, nomenclature and color schema, logo creation and other corporate identity elements, to all of your collateral be it your web site, brochure, stationery right down to your business cards. Everything must tell your story.

And do not forget internal corporate storytelling. Your memos, employee newsletters, fundraising annual giving reports, etc. are excellent ways of telling your story. Listen to what is being said around the water cooler or ask your clients what they think of when they hear your organization’s name? You will quickly find out how well you have been telling your story.

Here is a homework assignment:

  1. In the past two weeks identify what stories have you heard internally (around the water cooler) or externally (from a client) about your business. – Silence is fatal!
  2. In the upcoming week, tell your story at least once. – again silence is fatal.

Start and/or continue telling your story and have a beautiful sales curve.

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