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The Power of Stories

People remember what you share in stories more than just features and benefits.

Over the course of my career in marketing, I've had the opportunity to see the power of stories on many occasions. About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Don Pausback to produce a series of emotionally powerful consumer testimonials, a.k.a., stories, about how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC had made a tremendous impact on their lives in very difficult circumstances. These stories helped to reverse negative perceptions of the brand brought on by negative PR events and doubled inbound leads from their direct-to-consumer advertising.

People buy but hate to be sold to. Sources of influence have changed. The trust gap has gotten bigger as a result of "fake news." People trust people they know first and foremost. They trust people they don't know more than they trust companies. How you lead is predicated on knowing your story and using it to make an emotional connect.

Story is why you’re doing what you’re doing and there's a science to it. We all live our to lives based on stories. When you die, people will remember stories about how you made them feel. How do you remember people who have passed?

Stories help us decide what to believe when separating the noise from the signal. Stories are meaningful, impactful, and memorable. We tend to feel an emotional connection to the storyteller and we know emotion heavily drives decisions that we rationalize after a decision is made.

If we share a story people remember it, we are connected, and moved. Stories are powerful because they are meaningful.

So, what’s a story? An arc with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Try writing a six word story about yourself. Here's what I came up with:

  • Marketing professional becomes IT research analyst.

  • Double Dookie, Huge Tar Heel fan.

Those two six-word stories tell people a lot about me.

Stories work because they are emotional, evocative, unique, and personal.

How do you create and collect stories? Think about stories that lead, stories as assets, and stories as life. Most stories are tactical. Signature stories are strategic - an asset to manage. Intriguing, authentic, involving stories with a strategic message.

Three signature stories:

  • Purpose storiesToms shoes' mission of providing shoes for those in need. Adobe unlocking creativity in the world with a goal of reaching $5 billion in 5 years. They reached it in 3.5 years with an inspired mission.

  • Empathy story – with the user as hero. LinkedIn has banked user stories. Google Chrome showcased Daniel Lee with his annual message to his daughter "Dear Sophie."

  • Growth story – elevates value and increase pipeline. Salesforce reached out to find signature stories. Learned that their 25% highest performing sales people all used stories. Worked to identify and scale the best stories. Had 1,000 submitted, produced the top 100, used the top 10. UCHealth found and activated patient stories. In six months garnered 17,000 press mentions and became a top 15 hospital with patients coming from all over the world.

Stories about your product and services are superior to features.

Build a story culture by identifying a story ambassador. Build story habits by getting people to tell six-word stories about themselves, then about the organization.

Identify your signature stories -- your birth story, your growth story, your future story.

Bank your stories, they are assets. Look for true, bold, and distinct stories that are relevant to different audiences offering something bigger and meaningful.

Happiness is feeling positive, not negative. By thinking in stories you live a life that’s much more meaningful, honest, and deeper connections.

Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe, but tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. -- Indian Proverb  


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