story spotting

Stories are what make us human. We live from one to the next as our experiences are captured in a time and place through an event that gets anchored in an “aha” moment of clarity.

But we are reluctant to use stories in our business communications. Which is odd. Because it is within story we find the emotional connection we need to move people to action.

I’ve come to believe that if content is king, then storytelling is the kingdom’s sorcerer. It’s where the magic happens in our story marketing communications. Yet, our default professional mode of speaking is not in narrative, but nonsense.

Knowledge through narrative

Two days ago I had one of the most brilliant marketing minds I know in my office recording an episode for my Business of Story podcast. We’ll call him Steve. Steve has decades of experience in the high-tech world helping companies grow from tens of millions of dollars in revenue to hundreds of millions.

My job in all my interviews is to move all of my guests’ insight from nonsense to knowledge.

It’s not that their information is nonsense. Quite the contrary. It’s that it is received by our brains as nonsense until we create context with a story. Stories are how we meaning-making machines make sense of the world around us.

Putting Stories To Work - Shawn CallahanLike all of my guests, Steve knows his stuff. Plus, he has the experience and success to back it up. The trouble is, like you and me, he suffers from the “Curse of the Expert.” When we know our topics really well, we tend to talk over the heads of our audiences at 50,000 feet when what we really need to do is bring them into our stories in the trenches.

Steve and I had a robust conversation that lasted about 50 minutes. But when he left, something about the interview fell flat to me.

What I realized is that I did a poor job of coaxing stories out of Steve. He shared a wealth of best practices on brand positioning and marketing from his knowledge gained over three decades. We got the text book version when what we really need are the trench warfare tales.

I know this now more than ever especially after reading Shawn Callahan’s superb book, Putting Stories to Work

Text tells, tales teach

I called Steve yesterday and asked if he would mind re-recording his episode? I told him the content is gold, but what our listeners want – what ALL audiences want – are the tales that teach them something memorable and marvelous about the subject matter to further their life’s ambitions.

They want to understand Steve’s wisdom through his experience (war stories), events (what exactly happened), and moments (what he learned).

We die a thousand metaphorical deaths in our careers. Resurrect those experiences in your stories and you’ll become immortal to your audiences.

So I asked Steve if he would identify at least 10 stories to underscore his points in the show. Big ask. But these don’t have to be long stories. In fact, they’re better short. Anecdotes. Quick stories capturing an event and moment that reveal an “aha.” That “aha” is the emotional teaching gold you’re after.

Because that’s what all great stories do: they teach.

Therefore, Steve agreed to re-record our conversation, which I think will become one of the most powerful Business of Story episodes we have produced in over 80 shows.

The business of anecdotes

I am expanding my Business of Story services in 2017 with a Melbourne, Australia company called Anecdote. Shawn Callahan and Mark Schenk developed two powerful story finding systems called Storytelling for Leaders and Storytelling for Sales.

Shawn Callahan on Business of Story PodcastI learned about their proven program when Shawn joined me on Business of Story podcast last year. I’ve been studying their process and am excited to be launching it, making the Business of Story platform that much stronger.

The Anecdote way is the ideal expansion of my Story Cycle system. While I help companies develop their brand story strategy by using a universal structure to story, this new service will then help the leadership and communicators within the brand to find the stories – the events, moments and ahas – that support the new or refreshed brand positioning.

The Business of Story service with Storytelling for Leadership and Sales from Anecdote will help you craft, find and tell compelling brand stories like never before.

Just ask Steve. He’s experiencing it right now.