How do you write a great corporate story?
As a corporate storyteller this is a question I get asked more and more, especially given that content marketing IS driving most marketing compelling brands, businesses and consultants to all become publishers.
I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time as you’d imagine, as this is what I do and have been doing for well over three decades now.
So what makes a good corporate story? I’ve heard and read lots of advice about this and some of the best, I believe, comes from Peter Guber, chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group, who has produced or executive produced films that, in total, have grossed $3 billion worldwide. He's also the author of Tell to Win, a book about how purposeful stories are the best way to persuade, motivate and lead people in business. While Guber’s comments are more related to the new wave of native content, sponsored content or plain old advertorial in my language, his comments have resonance to me as I research and write corporate stories for all types of businesses and people.
Guber comments that:
"Stories with emotional propulsion move people to action and naturally shorten the distance between companies and customers."
He goes on to say you address three questions:
Who is your audience? Consider the gender, demographics, industry, interests and situation of your customers, employees or investors, then tailor the narrative to them. ‘If you're trying to be interesting instead of being interested in them, you'll never convert listeners into advocates.’
What is your goal? Make sure you know exactly how you want your audience to act after hearing your story. Do you want them to buy your product? Join the company? Invest? Stories can power you toward a goal only if the message is crystal clear. To this I’d add a couple of other outcomes you might want. Enjoy, relate, understand more deeply, share . . . not every story has to be about a transaction. The key thing is to be clear to yourself and/or your client about what you want to achieve and write accordingly.
Is your story genuine? A purposeful story is emotionally compelling. Provide believable, personal context.
I’ve also found screenwriting coach, Robert McKee’s advice really useful even in the space of corporate and business storytelling, histories, biographies and short company profiles. McKee’s advice is:
‘Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes. It begins with a situation in which life is relatively in balance: You come to work day after day, week after week, and everything’s fine. You expect it will go on that way. But then there’s an event—in screenwriting, we call it the “inciting incident”—that throws life out of balance. You get a new job, or the boss dies of a heart attack, or a big customer threatens to leave. The story goes on to describe how, in an effort to restore balance, the protagonist’s subjective expectations crash into an uncooperative objective reality.
A good storyteller describes what it’s like to deal with these opposing forces, calling on the protagonist to dig deeper, work with scarce resources, make difficult decisions, take action despite risks, and ultimately discover the truth.
All great storytellers since the dawn of time—from the ancient Greeks through Shakespeare and up to the present day—have dealt with this fundamental conflict between subjective expectation and cruel reality.”
And, the last piece of advice I have is START. Just start writing and keep writing. And, if you can’t, find someone to help you write it. It’ll cost but if you really have a story to tell this is a good option.