Stories: The Art of Effective Communication

Repost: This blog was originally posted on 28 October 2015

Think of Batman, or Snoopy in Peanuts. Think of Hanuman in Indian mythology, or Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.

All good stories have a hero or team of heroes, plus two other key elements:

  • A serious challenge
  • The hero(es) dealing with the challenge and learning something, as a consequence.

But this does not happen. Company stories repeatedly fail.

Here is a story from a typical brochure:

“In 1950 we started business as XYZ Tractor Company in Calcutta. Today, we are a dynamic company with offices in 50 countries, spread over five continents. Our annual revenues are over US$ 25 billion. We are ISO 9001 certified; and have won the IMC Ramkrishna Bajaj National Quality Award. For the past three years we have been selected as one of the Best Global Companies to Work For.”

In some ways, it is an impressive story. There is only one problem: It is not a good story.

Why? It has the wrong hero.

If you want your prospect to identify with your story, you must do what good story tellers do. Make that person identify with your hero.

Your prospect is not going to identify with you, your company, or your products. For a simple reason: You are not, and never can be, their hero.

Instead, they are their own heroes. People identify with themselves. They want solutions to their problems. They are not interested in helping you reach US$ 27 billion in annual revenues; or in opening an office in Rio de Janeiro.

People are interested in making the quality of their own lives miraculously better.

The ideal story talks about a client, not about the company. It puts the listener in that hero’s shoes, and creates tension around the challenge that confronted the hero: customer rebellion, high cost of poor quality, aggressive competition, lost vision, etc. The good story shows how the client overcame those challenges. It always has a happy ending.

Your best stories are not about you. They are about them.

Tell stories that make your clients the heroes, and make your prospects identify with them.

Then they will see how you can help them.

Lesson Learned: Put the audience, not you, in the hero’s shoes.

Qimpro has branded such stories as Quality Fables. These fables are based on real experience and involve real people.

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