When we think of storytelling we often harp think to our childhood. Evenings spent under a blanket reading the latest library haul or your Christmas book from your favourite relative. Your imagination running riot whilst images of far and distant lands filled your mind. Maybe you then retell your tale, perform it as a play or share your book with a friend. You may prefer a scary ghost telling session around a campfire (well, if you happen to live in a 1980s Teen Movie)
But, storytelling for entrepreneurs. For grownups? Is that relevant? Yes, it is! It is a skill that is often underrated. But it is the backbone of a solid brand, an interesting presentation and a winning pitch. It can be the difference between a good business and a global business.
I talk about “narrative” a lot in my coaching; from supporting people through developing their LinkedIn profile, CV or business idea. There is a Psychology behind it. Storytelling is part of our DNA; we are all tribal beings that connect through imagining what other people have been through. In a business setting, it is about being able to picture how a product or service, can fit in with our life.
But what if you aren’t a natural storyteller. What if the thought of sharing your story, either in writing or in a talk, fills you with fear?
Or, what if you are filled with ideas but have no focus; no structure? You don’t know where to start?
Then The Story Telling Entrepreneur by Melissa Addey is the book for you. Melissa has a wonderful history. At Sainsbury’s Head Office she has spent decades understanding what turned consumers on and off. What would get their attention, and ultimately, encourage them to commit to spending their money or sharing the brand! More recently, she has become 2016 Leverhulme Trust Writer in Residence for the British Library’s Business and IP Centre; a role I HAD NO Idea existed (as an aside, don’t ever undervalue to the power of creativity as a role in commerce)
It is no surprise that this book is an accessible, intelligent and interesting read. Just look at her work history! She sets out the reasons why storytelling is so important, using case studies to put context around how different types of business use it. She holds your hand through plotting out YOUR stories through a “Sacred Bundle” (items that represent your business; want more information? Get the book!) and she gives you the confidence to share YOUR stories through print to social media.
And trust me, after reading this book, you will realise how many you have in you.
Like all good book reviews from The Balance Collective, here are my “Clara Cliff Notes”: five things you must take away from this book.
- Size is irrelevant
Story Telling is personal. It doesn’t matter how many of you are in the business or how many clients you have, you approach each story one at a time. X uses some amazing case studies, in the book, which show the power of storytelling, irrespective of your product/ service or business size. So often in business books, we are given the “WOW” businesses. The big-name brands that we know and love (or hate, if it’s an example of what NOT to do) or organisations that are performing in a way we can only aspire to. However, this can have the opposite effect and make you feel like you must wait until you have a “big numbers” story to tell.
Nope, you need to tell your story now! Don’t wait.
- Document your story
Hands up if you are an autobiography (or gossip magazine) reader? Do you like to find out how people became the person they are now? What decisions they made and challenges they overcome. HOW and WHY they do what they do?
If you are interested in them, whose to say that people aren’t interested in you?
This is particularly relevant for anyone in the early stages of business; track what you are up to! Show the behind the scenes and your thought process.
For others, a little longer in the tooth, you can look back, and then reflect on how you have got to where you are!
Nothing beats sharing the behind the scenes of the day to day
- It’s not just about you
The very design of an entrepreneur means that we carry everything; I am the first to admit my ego make me think I should be able to do everything. Heck, I AM THE BALANCE COLLECTIVE. But in Story Telling terms, it’s not just about me. It is about my clients, the sector I am in, the contacts I work with. So, reach out and tell the stories of everyone that makes your business work; you can either write them up yourself or ask them to do, so it is in their own words. For those that have staff, this is a great branding and employee engagement approach.
- Tales teach
Stories don’t always have to be about your successes. You can use them to understand what works and what doesn’t. To document how things happened and what you have learnt from them. How these experiences have influenced your business now, and in the future.
Melissa stresses this isn’t abount being dramatic, sensationalist or, even worse, badmouthing clients or contacts, but showing the journey that you have been on.
- It’s about communication
“ I have a dream”. Probably one of the best-known openings to a speech in the world. Using words, imagery and a story, to share a vision. So, your stories don’t have to be finished. They don’t have to be a retelling of something that has happened. They can be a way of describing what you want to happen. To get people on board; from staff, to investors, to clients, to fans!
You may find you prefer recording them, or to write them down in a blog or article. Or, even develop them visually. Either way, everyone has a story, with an eager audience ready to listen. And, if you carry on getting up every day, you will never run out of topics. What stories do you have in you?
Come over to The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox and tell us what you think of the book. Which story are you bursting to tell?
Check out the other Book Reviews here.