I have really noticed that storytelling is a hot buzzword right now and it would seem every second PowerPoint is talking about the power of storytelling but I wonder who is really taking the narrative all the way?
Here’s the truth–good companies, I mean companies that have successfully grown year after year after year–have always known that to succeed they have to be great storytellers. Great. And the key to their storytelling skill is that they never leave the ending to chance.
You know how your older brother or sister would tell you a ghost story, and you would be sitting in your bed, just squirming when suddenly they would scream and then you would scream and you would all laugh because the ending was just so unexpected? The lesson in that is the ending of a story should never be left in the hands of someone who doesn’t care.
In the latest issue of Psychology Today, Peter Guber (famous producer of Rain Man, Midnight Express, Gorillas in the Mist, to name a few) posits that stories “…provide emotional transportation, moving people to take action on your cause because they can very quickly come to psychologically identify with the characters in a narrative or share an experience–courtesy of the images evoked in the telling.”
Coco-Cola produced these cans for a 4th of July promotion. So, just for a moment, imagine it is a hot day, sweat trickling down your back and you are buying a few Cokes for your party that night. And you notice that they’re a special edition, designed just for your country,(Canadians, suspend your disbelief, and pretend you are an American for a second here) and you smile, and think, that is pretty cool, maybe I’ll buy more because really, it’s about celebrating who we are as Americans right? Surfing, BBQ, stars and stripes, family, democracy? Damned straight.
Coca-Cola are still in business for a reason: they are experts at ‘emotional transportation’ and it is no mistake that when you grip that icy cold Coke in your hand there is a story that is relevant to you. It is most certainly not left to chance.
Often, companies will be led by great storytellers who don’t have the buy-in across the organization to execute that story; to tell the story through all levels of the company so that everyone gets it on an emotional level and conveys that to the customer. It’s a bit of a shill game in the end, with the customer feeling let down because the service sucked at their all-inclusive that they thought was going to be a transformative experience because the hotel chain said so. They promised it in their story.
And then let their front line make up the ending.
The most important moment in any story is when the person suspends their disbelief and enters it without reservation, immersing themselves in the world of the story, and emotionally engaging 100% in the experience.
Are your customers able to suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in your story? Because if they do, your story becomes a part of their story. Customers will tell a story about your company and we all know very well they’ll put it on TripAdvisor, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, you name it–are you confident that the reviews will reveal where you emotionally connected with your customer or will they reveal a company that let the story be dismantled by a thousand scattered endings?
For your story to engage, your belief in it has to be all or nothing. That includes everyone in your company, from CEO to intern. Let your front line tell the ending of your story so that your customer enters the experience with their heart–and leaves with a memory imprinted with feeling and positivity about you as a company. Then let them tell anyone and everyone about it!
Follow through on your ending with care and investment; deliver a complete narrative experience that will inspire your customer and make them willing participants in your ongoing story.