Despite the hype of “big data” and the purported need of creating content based on it the comparably silent revolution in business blogging and beyond has been the addition of storytelling. Over the recent months
I was able to successfully add storytelling elements to my articles without compromising the business approach to blogging.
Personal experiences and other gripping stories you can relate to are often far better at conveying a message than sheer numbers everybody can interpret this or that way.
Facts vs fiction
Do you remember the blockbuster series “Scientific Facts About the Pirates of the Caribbean?”. Neither do I. I bet you have viewed at least one movie starring Johny Depp as the slightly strange Captain Jack Sparrow though. We enjoy stories even if the so called facts used in them are far and in-between. Facts themselves are seldom really factual, they are in most cases opinions.
Even scientists attempt to prove theories they and their employers have come up with instead of searching for the truth. When it comes to business storytelling is about explaining complex things to average people and making them memorize them without distorting reality too much. We are not trying to write fiction but to use means that work well in fiction. What means can you use in your business blog posts? Well, I did try a few and they worked fine so that I’d like to tell you about them.
One of the easiest ways to add storytelling to your business blogging is to summarize the history of the topic you cover. I like this one very much because it’s so self-evident. I usually start a post with a summary of what happened until now.
Often I will tell my readers how SEO started and how back in the days low quality shady tricksters seemed to prevail. Over time the good guys became stronger and more self-confident while the smeary back-alley hustlers trying to game the system failed to adapt to new algorithms and SPAM precautions so that formerly outranked white hat SEOs became superheroes of the new SERPs.
Please note how I manage to paint a picture of good vs evil and finally the righteousness prevailing.
Everybody loves such stories especially in case they are true like in our case. I also like to highlight the difficult plight of the individual blogger and webmaster vs the growing power of almighty Google overlords. I don’t have to make up this either, I only spot and describe what reality is offering me.
When it comes to a boring and overly technical topic like SEO you need to humanize it and come up with protagonists who play the pivotal roles. It’s usually me against the faceless Google giant for example. With other less abstract topics it’s even easier. You only need to recount the true stories and add your own assessment of who did wrong and who didn’t.
Do not try to sound “objective” and detached. You’re not God. You aren’t above things. That’s why you need to express your own point if view and not hide it. Telling a story is a great way to do so without trying to hammer your opinion into people’s heads. Characterize the hero and the villain. Make sure to provide a clear distinction between both. Take sides.
Of course recounting the well known history and adding some details your regular readers might not know yet along providing context for those who are new to the topic is not the best way to catch people’s attention. I rather works to establish that campfire feeling of agreement. For getting attention on a crowded party you need more that that. Usually we prefer to listen to personal stories of people fighting against all odds to survive and thrive. Just think about your favorite Hollywood movie. It’s not just Jack Sparrow.
You may not be Superman but I’m convinced you have been through all kinds of experiences that led you along your difficult path.
The opportunity to write for an online publication means that you not only managed to stay alive but that you did a lot of things right along the way. Thus other people can learn from you how you got there. Even in case you are an introvert it doesn’t mean you can’t be the hero of your own article.
Again, many writers make the mistake to try to sound “professional” that is bland in other words. Even a pretty straightforward story retelling how you tried to achieve something, failed first, tried again, and again and succeeded somewhat in the end is worth reading for all those who haven’t even started yet or are in the middle of the painful process. These people are wondering what’s ahead. Be their guide.
I have even learned to depict my failures in a way that allow me to spice up the article with a personal story. At first people may even pity me but then they want to find out how I got over it. The important aspect here is not to end the article with your disastrous results. Ideally you show how you learned from your mistakes or at least identify the issues that made you fail at first. Tell them how you fell and how you got up subsequently.
“Imagine this in real life” allegory
In many cases there is neither history that matters nor a personal story to tell. Many issues are quite new in their current form so that you have to come up with something to make them understandable based on the past experiences or history everybody knows already. The perfect solution specifically for abstract issues like we often encounter on the Web is the “imagine this in real life” method.
I often use this technique to demonstrate the absurdity of many monopolistic Google practices you wouldn’t accept from a corporation offline. For example imagine a road construction company that provides the infrastructure leading to your store to penalize you for displaying the wrong things in your store window of for having unnatural links with other business owners who send over customers your way. Absurd, isn’t it? Yet on the Web we accept it daily without even trying to protest.
In its most simple terms the method is just about generalizing a topic – here Google – and then finding an equivalent in the offline world.
What is Google? Google is the probably largest provider of infrastructure on the Web. What kinds of infrastructure are there in the outside world? Yes, roads, railroads, planes and airports to name just a few. They are also obviously connected. They all deal with traffic like Google. You could also compare Google to libraries, newsstands and the likes. The more similar the allegory the better.
The “imagine it in real life” allegory might often be insufficient because it lacks actual people in it. You have to imagine them too. An advanced version of it is to come up with fictional characters who play out the story in a sense. It’s far easier to grasp the message when you imagine how John, 32, father of two girls and husband of a lovely wife – Amanda, 29 – a former athlete who works as a nurse on a night shift deals with it.
One sunny morning John finds out that he has been penalized by Poodle, a construction company that has provided his small business with access to the highway system.
Over night while Amanda has been working at the nearby hospital they have blocked his entrance with large concrete blocks. Now he wonders what to do and how to explain it to tired Amanda so that she doesn’t lose sleep. Will he be able to keep both his business and relationship?
Isn’t this already gripping? We already identify either with Amanda or John. We can already imagine how we would feel when someone would have barricaded our store – the anger, frustration, and psychological pain. It’s truly palpable isn’t it? It’s also far better than a superficial article about some numbers or facts.
I haven’t used this last technique a lot in my own business blogging practices yet because people are not accustomed to face such fictional characters in non-fictional texts. It’s not a problem though as long as you keep the actual facts separate from the fictional characters. Do not come up with fake news to misguide your readers but use fictional characters to make real news easier to grasp.
More storytelling resources from elsewhere
- Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling In Marketing
- Increase Customer Acquisition by 400 Percent with Storytelling
- How To Get 300% More People To Read Your Content
- Storytelling For Business: Story Is The Only Difference Between You And The Competition
- The Power of Persuasion: Storytelling & Personas in Content Marketing
- Readers like stories about problems more when they also include possible solutions
- Storytelling infographic : What really makes a good story?
- The Psychology of Storytelling and Empathy, Animated
- How Storytelling Can Do Wonders in Blogging
- Popular Methods for Online Storytelling