Kindra Hall, a professional speaker, author, and storytelling strategist, emphasizes the profound impact of storytelling in addressing organizational challenges. Stories hold the key to creating connections that drive an organization’s purpose. Hall’s book, “Stories That Stick,” published in 2019, delves into the power of storytelling.
In this guide, we explore the potency of stories, dissect the components of an effective narrative, and introduce four core story models that you can readily employ. Additionally, we provide prompts to help you construct your own repository of captivating stories. Throughout this journey, we draw insights from real-world examples of companies effectively utilizing storytelling in their marketing campaigns. We also draw comparisons with advice from marketing strategists like Daniel Pink and Seth Godin, shedding light on the universality of storytelling as a persuasive tool in business.
The Role of Stories in Business
Kindra Hall highlights that the fundamental purpose of any business is to provide value to people. However, this mission is riddled with challenges, often stemming from disconnections between businesses and their target audience, be it customers, employees, or investors. These disconnections can be observed when startups struggle to find investors or products fail to sell. To address these gaps, Hall asserts that storytelling is the key tool for fostering connections that enable businesses to fulfill their purpose.
Storytelling, in this context, serves three essential functions:
- Engagement: Storytelling is a collaborative process, inviting active engagement from the audience. Listeners mentally participate in the storytelling, filling in gaps with their own interpretations, images, emotions, and context. This transforms them from passive recipients to active participants in the narrative.
- Persuasion: Stories possess persuasive capabilities, subtly altering perspectives and attitudes. People are influenced to take actions they might not have considered otherwise. Research has shown that stories often have more persuasive power than straightforward facts, owing to their ease of processing.
- Lasting Change: Virtuous or noble stories, those that transcend the immediate narrative and touch upon more profound themes, have the capacity to bring about enduring transformation in individuals. This notion aligns with the concept of “story editing,” wherein altering or reframing personal narratives can lead to substantial, lasting changes in behavior and mindset.
In the realm of business, storytelling is not a novel concept but has gained prominence in marketing, with notable marketers like Seth Godin championing the use of compelling narratives to resonate with target audiences. The collaborative, persuasive, and transformative nature of storytelling makes it an indispensable tool for building vital connections that drive a business’s purpose.
Why Storytelling Works and Crafting a Good Story
Kindra Hall explores the profound impact of storytelling on our brains, emphasizing the role of oxytocin in enhancing social bonding and trust. She argues that storytelling is a powerful marketing tool due to its ability to create connections and emotional engagement. While some debates exist about the research on oxytocin, it’s widely accepted that stories are potent because they change brain chemistry, promoting empathy and bonding.
To craft a compelling story, Hall suggests four key components:
- Character: A relatable character the audience can empathize with is essential. Focus on a person or entity, not the product itself.
- Concrete Details: Use relatable, vivid details that transport the audience into the story. These details should trigger memories or emotions.
- Genuine Emotion: The story should carry emotional weight, making the audience emotionally invested in the outcome.
- Turning Point: A pivotal moment or change is crucial to avoid aimless storytelling.
The definition of a “good story” varies among experts. For instance, Donald Miller’s StoryBrand Framework focuses on guiding the audience towards taking specific actions. Daniel Pink emphasizes emotional impact, while others stress authenticity and emotional engagement.
Hall proposes a story structure with three phases: “the normal” (before), “the explosion” (change), and “the new normal” (after), emphasizing the importance of setting the stage for emotional investment.
The Four Core Stories
Kindra Hall introduces four core stories:
- Value Story: Used to increase sales or appeal to a new audience, it communicates that you have a solution to the audience’s problem, focusing on how your product or service enhances their lives.
- Customer Story: Told by customers, these authentic narratives provide credibility and can range from reviews to testimonials.
- Founder Story: Ideal for attracting investors, customers, or team members, it showcases what makes your company stand out by narrating the company’s origin and the person behind it.
- Purpose Story: Anchored in your company’s mission and values, this story conveys the greater purpose your business serves.
It’s important to adapt your storytelling strategy based on the situation and audience, avoiding the Founder’s Story when it doesn’t align with your company’s image.
Effective storytelling enhances marketing, forging connections, and driving action, making it an invaluable tool in the business world.
The Purpose Story and Effective Story Selection
Kindra Hall introduces the final core story, the Purpose Story, which is valuable for uniting people around a shared vision. She emphasizes the importance of a vision that empowers everyone, not just those at the top.
A Purpose Story serves to align people around a common purpose in three ways:
- Shared Challenges: Reminds people of their shared humanity, builds trust, and opens doors for productive dialogue.
- Shared Values: Helps people understand and connect with the values guiding an organization or community.
- Shared Vision: Assists people in visualizing a shared goal or a better future.
Patagonia effectively uses these strategies, aligning people around a transcendent purpose, which neuroeconomist Paul Zak’s research suggests leads to deeper and more sustained motivation and commitment. This focus on a deeper purpose fosters brand loyalty by helping customers develop an identity around the company.
Selecting the right story for the right purpose involves considering the audience and the desired change. For example, to instill confidence in potential investors, tell the Founder’s Story, highlighting the resilience of the person behind the product. When speaking to customers, a Purpose Story can connect them to the deeper meaning of the company.
Collecting a bank of stories is essential for effective storytelling. Hall suggests brainstorming story ideas without judgment and gathering stories from various sources, including others. Everyone has stories worth sharing, and paying attention to stories happening around us can lead to powerful narratives.