So what’s your story? I bet it’s a telling one

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

I’m perfectly content, honored even, with my title as editor of the Business Times. Although editor of a one-man news staff isn’t nearly as impressive as it sounds and necessarily requires a lot more than editing. Like reporting, writing and hauling out the trash.

But I’ll admit it. I’ve long aspired to something my beloved late wife, ever the astute attorney, would have considered ostentatious. Your royal majesty, perhaps. Supreme allied commander has a nice ring to it. And then there’s my personal favorite: illustrious potentate. For that matter, I wouldn’t mind becoming what the Beatles called a paperback writer.

All kidding aside, the one title that actually matters most to me also describes a function, and that’s storyteller. I use that word not at all in the derogatory sense of those skilled at fabricating exaggerations. Rather, I offer reverential praise to those who make connections, convey truths and perpetuate culture in ways great and small.

I love to tell stories. I really love to tell stories about entrepreneurs and their ventures. I love most of all to tell success stories with happy endings because I believe they offer lessons from which other entrepreneurs can learn. Kind of like the morals of the fairy tales that were read to us as children.

Not at all surprisingly, storytelling has garnered growing recognition as an effective way to brand a business. And there’s an important intersection between my passion and marketing I’m going to come to in just a moment.

First, though, why should business owners care about storytelling? The answer’s obvious: Humans are hardwired to respond to stories whether they’re sitting around a fire, reading a book or watching a movie. Stories entertain. They persuade. They resonate on a deeper level.

Businesses can tap into the power of storytelling in better connecting with their customers, according to experts on the matter. Consider, for example, what these three experts have to say:

Kindra Hall, president of the Steller Collective consulting firm, also possesses a title of which I’m especially envious — chief storytelling officer. She comes by the title by education and accomplishment in both earning a master’s degree in communication and winning a national championship in storytelling. Yes, that’s a thing.

In her forthcoming book “Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences and Transform Your Business,” Hall details the four kinds of stories businesses can tell. They include the value story to convince customers they need what a business provides, the founder story to persuade investors and customers the business is worth the investment, the purpose story to align employees and the customer story in which those who use products and services share their experiences.

Lindsay Pedersen makes the point stories stand out from all the other stimuli bombarding customers these days by offering meaning.

A coach, speaker and author of “Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide,” Pedersen suggests businesses can craft compelling stories by answering four questions. What are you about? What are you here to do? How will you show up? Why should people care?

It’s important, Pedersen asserts, to make customers the heroes of stories. Businesses exist to help heroes resolve their conflicts and reach those happy endings.

Mark Evans, a consultant and author of “Storytelling for Startups,” also advises a customer-centric approach. It’s critical, Evans says, to tell customers the stories they want to hear rather than the stories you want to tell them. Stories have to be about them and their needs and interests.

Now, let’s add to the conversation my observation from working more than 20 years as editor of a business journal. Nearly every business has a compelling story to tell. Few businesses tell their stories well. Some don’t even try.

Here’s where we arrive at that intersection I was telling you about. If you’ve got a good story to tell, let me know. I’m not taking about a sale here, but rather something new or different. 
An innovative product or service.  A proverbial better mousetrap. A way of doing business other entrepreneurs wish dearly they’d thought of first.

A news release constitutes a good initial step, but I’ll happily settle for an email or telephone call.

I’m eager to help tell your stories. That’s my job as editor of the Business Times. You could call me a storyteller, in fact. Actually, make that chief storytelling officer.