Business, Branding and the Art of Storytelling

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Ever wonder how to make yourself stand out from all the other business puppets?

One of the most compelling ways to launch and build a business or brand is to create a legend around it. Tell a deeply compelling story that draws in not only clients and prospects, but employees, partners, collaborators, mentors and evangelists.

I’m not talking about fabricating a story from thin air, but, rather, bringing substantially more art and deliberation to the way you craft and share yours. Done right, with integrity and authenticity, it can transform the way you do business and make everything from day to day operations to sales and marketing infinitely more easy.

There are many powerful story lines around which to build your legend.

The reluctant hero is a classic example. Elements include:

  • Setting the scene
  • The ordinary Josephine or Joe stepping into the role of protagonist
  • Exploring and deepening a pain or yearning for something
  • Being forced with great reluctance into action by the inciting incident, which creates…
  • The unlikely hero/adventurer/discoverer, vision-quester…you… and
  • Sets in motion the quest for an answer, during which there comes
  • The inner struggle, which inevitably leads down the wrong path
  • That circles at the last possible moment back to
  • The revelation, an awakening or moment of discovery, which leads to
  • The solution, that sets in motion a new fully-awakened path, then
  • Salvation, innovation, creation and adoration

When we tell this story in the context of defining, launching and building a brand or business, the purpose is not to provide a respite, escape or moment of entertainment, but rather to so closely pace the experience of the reader that they actually step into the story, they experience a sense of transference that goes beyond rapport.

They become the protagonist. And, in pacing their current experience, you are telling their story, sharing their tale of woe, their pains, frustrations, emotions and deep need for resolution.

You bring them to a place where they’re hanging on every word to find out just how the story resolves itself.

Because in the story’s resolution, they find their own resolution.

And, this is the moment you bridge the gap from pacing and agitating the readers’ current experience, from telling their story through the lens of your own quest to leading them into the part of the story that’s yet to unfold. The events, people and solutions that will bring solace, remove pain and deliver them into a place of exaltation. Salvation. Respect. Success. Devoid of pain.

And, guess who those people, events and solutions are?

They are you, your ideas, your products, your services, your solutions.

This is just one example of how to tap the power of a well-crafted evolutionary metaphor, the reluctant hero, to build a connection between you and your prospects, then deliver them into what seems an irrefutable desire to buy what you’re selling as the only logical way to resolve their own pain, to solve their own problem.

So, my question to you is…

What’s your story?

Your legend?

Your journey of discovery?

The one capable of defining your quest and revelation, fueling the growth of your community and driving them to action?


___________Wednesday’s Awakened Shout Outs_____________

  • Pro Blogger Book 2nd Edition – Speaking of story, my friends, Darren Rowse & Chris Garrett have just released the 2nd edition of their book Pro Blogger. Among the many revisions and new material, Darren spent an entire chapter revealing a side of his own journey, the launch and growth of his massive Digital Photography School venture, that forms the foundation of his own business. It’s all new material, and incredibly compelling as both proof of what can be done and strategies that can be leveraged. Go check it out!
  • World-Changing Writing Workshop – Pace & Kyeli from the acclaimed Freak Revolution have put together a very cool 6-week online writers’ workshop where an intimate faculty of top online writers and well-known authors will be sharing strategies, tactics, insights and ideas designed to take your writing to a whole new level. You can learn more here (disclosure – I’m one of the presenters for this program and I’m also an affiliate, so if you register using the above link, I’ll not only get to play with you in the program, but make gobs of money and likely retire to a small island off Puerto Rico shortly after)

_________Seriously, You Guys Rock…You Know That, Right?!_________

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35 responses

35 responses to “Business, Branding and the Art of Storytelling”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by remarkablogger: RT @jonathanfields Business, Branding and the Art of Storytelling http://bit.ly/dcwlgA (pls RT)…

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, Kim Howard, Jan Martinus, Santi Chacon and others. Santi Chacon said: Business, Branding and the Art of Storytelling: Ever wonder how to make yourself stand out from all the other bus… http://bit.ly/dcwlgA […]

  3. Zadling says:

    I’m a huge fan of incorporating storytelling into marketing material. People love reading a good story. It develops a personal connection between the buyer and seller and establishes an element of trust. People want to believe in someone else and people love hearing a great success story. I’ve included a personal story about how and why I started my company in my about us section. So far it has gotten a lot of positive feedback. Great article!

  4. ami says:

    Great post – I think we often miss out on opportunities to tell our story – even when our story is a good one! I’m talking to a local public radio station about using social media to tell their story, they’ve got so much great stuff to share, and, as you say, telling or crafting the legend can mean having more and better interactions with your audience.

    2 resources I’ve been reading recently that align well with your post: Made to Stick, by the Heath brothers, about communicating in a way that gets your message to ‘stick’ with your target audience and motivates them to take action and The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

  5. JeanPWebster says:

    I LOVE the storytelling analogy. I am going to write my story tonight & see where it takes me. Thanks.

  6. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Do you have any examples of blogs telling personal stories like you described?

  7. John Sherry says:

    I heartely agree Jonathan. We all love a story (especially a true one) as we see ourselves often reflected in it or relate one of our experiences to the narrative. Above all it supplies a human touch to a business world reminding us all what really matters. I tell my story too simply because I’m the same as those I talk to who have lived through something called life. A sensible piece I really liked and a great fresher approach to the normal business and branding by numbers found elsewhere. Hope there’s more to come!

  8. Hiro Boga says:

    Story is such a powerful way for us to meet each other at the boundary of our differences, only to find ourselves in each other. Thank you for lovely post.

    Hiro

  9. Jonathan,

    This is great stuff, as usual.

    Love the story… get the story and so often overlook the story when writing… yet find myself always relying on them in conversation.

    I have a great authentic back story that landed me here… it’s time I openly share it, tell it like it is.

    It’s what I’m thinking about now… so the timing is perfect.

    To Your Life @ Full Strength,
    Shawn

  10. There’s a wonderful book about stories and business by Jim Loehr (who co-wrote The Power of Full Engagement with Tony Schwartz). It’s The Power of Story: Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life.

  11. Queenie says:

    Thanks for sharing. Some great insights I will definitely be putting to use right away.

  12. Tim Danyo says:

    I love the way you linked the classic epic story line to a personal or business brand story line.

    Here’s an idea…. why not create a video that tells your story like this and put it on your “About Us” page? I get so tired of the same old same old. A real story about real people doing amazing things for a true and right endeavor always makes for something to remember and talk about.

    A valuable story is worth sharing.

  13. “One of the most compelling ways to launch and build a business or brand is to create a legend around it.”

    Wow – that’s a powerful concept. Do you have any of your blog posts (or other people’s that do this? I would love to read them. Examples help me.

    Best, Wendy

  14. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan Schawbel, Jonathan Fields, Jonathan Fields, remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths and others. Grant Griffiths said: Business, Branding and the Art of Storytelling http://bit.ly/dcwlgA by @jonathanfields […]

  15. Megan Zuniga says:

    This is such a brilliant advice! I never thought about it that way. People love stories and they love success stories. Often in marketing school, they teach us the most common ways of how to stand out among your competition http://budurl.com/4qfw It’s always good to find new ways to fascinate the market.
    I remember reading about the book on starbucks, how he started with an old unremarkable shop and now it’s a big coffee empire. And it worked so well for him. It could work for any of us.

  16. Ivan Walsh says:

    Hey Wendy,

    Yaro Starak talks about this quite a bit.

    He suggested that you write a VERY DETAILED timeline of your life’s story and then use this to as the ‘emotional anchor’ that help people connect with your business.

    I wrote a 2500 word article on my site timelining my life story.

    Some of the emails I’ve got have been very interesting, in a nice way 🙂

  17. Great idea this one. We all have an amazing story to share and it connects so deeply with readers.

  18. […] a whole lot more interesting in their eyes. Jonathan Fields had a great post yesterday about business, branding and the art of storytelling that I think intersects really well here. I’d encourage you to give it a read. We’re seeing […]

  19. Great post. We strongly support your ideas here… in fact, we tell people NOT to stand out from the crowd. It’s so undignified to see professionals jumping up and down saying “pick me, pick me.”

    Rather, we tell them to Get Out! Create Their Own Legend, STOP being “an attorney,” “a coach,” “a photographer,” or “a candlestick maker.” Oh, sure: when people start in a career they have to take on the mantle of the profession they join because they have no other social proof about their abilities. But by mid-career, mid-life, they need to Get Out, tell their unique story, and get off the TimeTrap Plateau of trading time for money.

    Thanks for this post, Jonathan. Your passion for this topic (and your personal story of surviving the change) are infectious.

    Charlie Seymour Jr

  20. Elle B. says:

    I went to college a little late, after six years having my soul sucked dry by the aerospace industry. At one point, I investigated getting an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology. The department head enthused about the “new direction” of folklore: Their most brilliant student was doing fieldwork at Hughes Aircraft, attempting to raise morale by telling stories that portrayed Howard Hughes as the ultimate trickster figure and having employees contribute. “Folklore,” he said, “is the new business degree.”

    I ran screaming out of there. But now, 15 years later, it makes perfect sense.

  21. cattie says:

    What first popped into my mind was J. Peterman from Seinfeld… 🙂

    Seriously though, this is great information. I have only just recently started to “expose” myself online and tell the story behind my photos and blog posts a bit more. I’m a shy person who has always been more comfortable staying behind the scenes, but I do enjoy reading the reasons why others do what they do, so I decided it was time to stop hiding behind my art and become a real person online.

    Thanks for the great advice!

  22. Josh Kilen says:

    You hear quite a lot about designing the customer experience and I really like your take on how to use narrative elements to accomplish that. You can help them overcome their constraining, old story and step into a brand new story full of new possibilities.

  23. […] a whole lot more interesting in their eyes. Jonathan Fields had a great post yesterday about business, branding and the art of storytelling that I think intersects really well here. I’d encourage you to give it a read. We’re seeing […]

  24. […] advice I have ever received when it comes to creating an About Us section is to tell a story.  Brand yourself with the art of story telling.  I’ve put this valuable marketing technique to work in my About Us section.  In that […]

  25. I’m sooo glad someone talked about this!

    The importance of the story/legend is usually overlooked. Why do people love all these movies when they usually all follow the classical “hero’s tragedy”, etc.? The story/legend of course!

    Glad you touched on it.

  26. TomPier says:

    great post as usual!

  27. If we are all storytellers, and who isn’t these days, of course, you should be able to answer the question, “What’s your story?” at a moment’s notice.

  28. […] owner, I think it provides you with an unparalleled opportunity to create thought leadership and to use storytelling to create an interesting point of difference. I also think one reason small business owners are […]

  29. […] owner, I think it provides you with an unparalleled opportunity to create thought leadership and to use storytelling to create an interesting point of difference. I also think one reason small business owners are […]

  30. […] experience of the reader that they actually step into the story,” writes Jonathan Fields in Business, Branding and the Art of Storytelling, “they experience a sense of transference that goes beyond rapport. They become the […]