December 8, 2011
Nothing is more strongly wired in our brains and critical to our understanding of the world than stories. They are the most powerful communication tool in whatever you might be doing. If you can tell a good story, you’ll be able to captivate an audience like nothing else.
Don Hewitt and 60 Minutes
A couple of years ago, Don Hewitt, the creator of CBS’s 60 Minutes program passed away and I watched their tribute to him. Don was extremely respected in his field and his success was easy to understand because he only really cared about one thing: tell me a story. When in doubt, tell a story and people will listen. Stories are the most addictive substance on earth.
They Are Easily Transferred
A good story was the first viral communication. When someone hears a good story, it’s easy to take the important parts and pass it on to another group of people in another situation. Not only do people like hearing stories, they like telling good ones. Few things are as rewarding as telling a story your audience is captivated with.
One thing we’ve gotten a lot of miles out of at Onepager is our story. All of our founders come from small business families and are aware of all the troubles that small businesses deal with. We’ve written blog posts that support and reinforce this story. Our central narrative is so good, I’ve had people pull me aside at industry events and comment on how moving my personal story was. Unlike some press release or Techcrunch article, a powerful story isn’t quickly forgotten.
Another benefit is that if someone relates to your story, they are likely to become fans of your product and sometimes evangelists. When this happens, it’s really special.
Make it a Manifesto
I was compelled to write this post after going to a Skillshare class taught by Derek Flanzraich from the fitness site Greatist. He suggested taking your story and turning it into a manifesto that your whole audience can see on your site. They also have this written on their whiteboard wall in their office. All of these points to hit the story from the user and staff point of view are just solidifying commitment to the central narrative of the company. It’s their guiding light when making decisions and makes decision-making easy (does it fit with our story or not?).
Start Telling Your Story
Decide on what your story is. All great storytellers “strengthen” weak parts of their stories, fill in the gaps, and leave out the irrelevant parts. That’s the art of storytelling and works for your startup story as well. Many big companies (or rapidly successful startups) wind up creating their story afterwards. I think if you can get your story straight from the start and get it out there, you’ll have another powerful tool to get your users engaged.
Post your story in blog posts, manifestos, a YouTube video, tell it to people you meet or give a product demo with a strong dose of your story and why you are doing your project. All of this sticks with people and you’ll be amazed with the results.