What’s the role of storytelling in business?
Kate opens the conversation by asking what role storytelling plays in business and in Lucy and Paul’s roles. For Lucy, it’s all about the human connection. “I work with global businesses and individual consultants, but the thread really for me is all the same, it’s about making that human connection. For independents it’s really shining a light on the person that is behind that business, the person that’s inseparable from the services that they’re delivering. From a corporate perspective, we tend to think of corporates as large, faceless organisations, but they’re actually a complex web of human beings with interesting stories to tell which help build trust and engagement.”
Kate adds, “I think the point that you’re impressing there is just how inherent storytelling is to every element of business, because everyone’s story intertwines into what an organisation is going to aim for and achieve. I hate it when a job interview revolves around whether or not a person ‘fits’ with the organisation…actually it’s more about whether they’ve got the right story to help the business get to where it wants to get to.”
“I think the point that you’re impressing there is just how inherent storytelling is to every element of business.”Kate Stinchcombe-Gillies
For Paul, storytelling is about bringing things to life and bringing personality and character to a brand which might otherwise be faceless. “For me it’s about creating empathy and trust. For example, one of my clients works in the field of modern slavery and they help victims of modern slavery get back on their feet. My job is to get across the organisation’s messages, but also the personal stories which you can’t help but feel empathy with. There is an art to storytelling and you can use it inappropriately, as with the current Oat-ly advert that you mention Kate…. Used poorly storytelling can come across as a sledgehammer, sometimes.”
“My job is to get across the organisation’s messages, but also the personal stories which you can’t help but feel empathy with.”Paul Sutton
‘It’s about confidence and clarity’
Lucy makes the point that storytelling helps give her clients the confidence to build their business. “Using social can be quite frightening for someone who hasn’t had to be front and centre for a brand and now has to put themselves at the forefront… it can be quite daunting. So, I give my clients the confidence and a structure around their story to do that. I have to show them how they have the elements of a great story and it’s up to me to help them tell it and make them shine.
“I always come back to ‘who’s your audience?’, ‘who do you want to connect with?’,…asking these questions helps my clients to focus on making their story relevant.”Lucy Eckley
Kate agrees, “You’re right, storytelling has become a barrier for some and breaking it down is one of the tricks of the trade.”
“There’s a common misconception about storytelling.”
Paul believes storytelling can be encapsulated in a few words. “In a communications sense it can be boiled down to one or two words. I was introduced as ‘de-mystifying digital marketing’…that’s a story, that’s the crux of my story and it’s doing, potentially, more than an entire book.”
Kate adds, “Those three words can also help your audience to tune in to you. Getting to the point quicker with three words and a stunning visual is part of the power. There’s a common misconception about storytelling…it doesn’t have to be wordy.”
Great storytelling examples?
For Paul, one of his favourite examples of great storytelling is from Doncaster Council. “Councils are very safe organisations, generally. Doncaster Council does a great job on social and I urge you to follow them. They don’t just put out a message saying ‘stay safe’, they’ll put out a trail of posts on social using gifs and text…you have to see it to fully appreciate it but they’re telling a classic, engaging story.”
Kate cites the Isle of Scilly police who did something very similar. “They use very tongue in cheek storytelling and good imagery. There is a very easy sense of light-heartedness which is in stark contrast to what you’d expect. Last year I received a Christmas present from my mum which was the book version of their online activity. It was brilliant and they’d obviously struck a chord with a lot of people.”
Lucy follows Natalie Sisson, who is based in Wellington, NZ. “She does a great job storytelling about her
business. She lives just outside of Wellington and I feel like I’m sharing her experience vicariously…I spent some time living in New Zealand, working in co-working spaces, like Natalie, and that keeps me hooked. She doesn’t cross the personal / private boundary, which is important, but keeps you interested. It’s an aspirational lifestyle for some, it’s a reminder of something (as for me) for others.”
Kate is clearly taken with the Airbnb phenomenon. “The still played out story of Airbnb, which began as three guys who started a business in their home and which is now the most influential business in travel is still my favourite. They spurred the energy for the gig economy and Airbnb is now a noun and a verb in our everyday vernacular. It’s a hugely telling and inspiring story.”
With thanks to Kate, Paul and Lucy… to hear or watch the full story catch up with the podcast and video version of The Business Brunch at the links below.