Business Storytelling: The Definitive Guide (2020 ready)

In this article you will learn everything you need to know about Business Storytelling.

I’ll be your guide. I’ve spent the last 20 years analyzing Hollywood scripts, creating business narratives, and teaching presentations and storytelling.

Let’s get to the core of the matter.

What Is Business Storytelling?

Business Storytelling refers to the use of the story structure for the purpose of internal and external communication, collaboration and marketing. Storytelling can be used to persuade peers, to sell to clients, to develop new marketing narratives, and even to reposition the company amongst the competition.

The science of storytelling can be a powerful tool in the hands of business people, as it empowers them to transcend the confines and tropes typical of business speak, and to start breaking boundaries with a powerful narrative to support their message.

What Is Storytelling in Business Communication?

Storytelling can be especially powerful when used for business communication. The story arc lends itself to the polished form of advertising formats. A storytelling structure can be used also to organize conferences, talks, and conventions. The typical three-act schema can also enable powerful communication inside the company and can be used by managers dealing with change management and in HR.

Storytelling plays a role in institutional communications and in PR, where a well-constructed narrative can change the views of lawmakers and influence the public at large. Great leaders usually are also great storytellers because they know that ideas stick better if they are delivered in the form of a story.

How Can Storytelling Help in a Corporate Setting?

A profound knowledge of storytelling is an essential trait of the modern manager, of the innovator, of the smart marketing and communications officers, and of the HR department.

Storytelling in the corporate world can be used by companies while drafting press releases, preparing corporate presentations, creating content for the end users or for the employees. The outcome of any ad, article, presentation, video will be enhanced by the use of the right storytelling knowledge.

Why Is Storytelling Important?

Storytelling is as important as language, since it enables us to bind facts and ideas in a coherent, digestible way that helps us spread our agenda.

Storytelling is the most adopted and spontaneous form of human communication, as it exploits our natural curiosity and our instinctive desire to follow a story till the end. It also taps into our wish for coherence. Moreover, storytelling plays an important role because we get better at committing to memory what we understand not just rationally, but also emotionally.

How Do You Do Effective Storytelling?

The mastery of storytelling derives from the study of the basic three-act structure of most human narratives. This ever-present structure, when profoundly understood, allows us to construct any sort of narrative. It’s like having an infinite set of Lego blocks to build a story.

Once you profoundly understand the “traditional structure”, you can also learn how to freestyle and create your own structure for any medium.

How Can Storytelling Be Used to Communicate Ideas?

Ideas don’t travel far without a compelling story to support them. Storytelling can help in providing the right structure to tell an idea in such a way that the audience will relate to it both rationally and emotionally.

Storytelling structures are also suggestive of the fact that the new idea should become a daily fixture for the target audience, should be implemented in their day-to-day life and – if applicable – become a habit.

If you relate your idea through a story, you also increase the chances that your audience will use your story when they relate your ideas to third parties.

Why Are Stories Powerful Communication Techniques?

From an evolutionary standpoint, not much time has passed since the only form of entertainment was hearing stories around the campfire. Even today the advertising that captures us, the Facebook updates that we remember, the Instagram stories that make sense to us, are all focused on a story.

The most popular social format that is being adopted by all companies is also called “Stories”. That should give pause to anyone discounting the importance of storytelling in communications.

As long as we remain as human as we are, we can trust stories to be an almighty powerful communication tool.

How Do You Become a Good Storyteller Technique?

Let’s rephrase: how do I become a great storyteller? What techniques do I need to learn?

There are two ways you can proceed: you can start from your favorite stories, presentations, and ads, and try to deconstruct the principles and learn the formulas of these stories.

Otherwise, you can go to the source and learn the principles of storytelling. The tools of the trade are The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Chris Vogler. They provide a story structure that is complex, multifaceted, and bulletproof.

There are many students of these masters, like me, that also provide trainings. Click here to get informed and join one of my next seminars on business storytelling.

What Are the Methods of Storytelling?

The main method used for storytelling is the story arc. In simple terms you give your narrative a beginning (a hook), then you give it a dramatic evolution (a climax), and finally you bring it to a close (an ending).

Each storytelling moment gives you the opportunity to engage with your audience, to show your point of view, to get a dramatic and transformational moment, and then bring your ideas to a close in the ending.

What Is the Traditional Dramatic Structure?

There is one traditional dramatic structure, summarized by the three-act structure. We find this structure in Greek theater and in the latest Avengers movie.

This structure can be further divided into the 17 steps belonging to three acts of the Hero’s Journey as codified by Joseph Campbell. Next to the original name of each chapter you will see how this informs business storytelling.

  1. The Call to Adventure – Introduction
  2. Refusal of the Call – Motivation
  3. Supernatural Aid – The Reveal
  4. Crossing the First Threshold – Entering the Topic
  5. In the Belly of the Whale – Too Much Information
  6. The Road of Trials – From Chaos to Order
  7. Meeting with the Goddess – Access to Knowledge
  8. Temptation – Temptations and Errors
  9. Atonement with the Father – The Mastery of Knowledge
  10. The Encounter with Death/Resurrection – End of the Old Knowledge
  11. The Ultimate Boon – The Birth of the New Knowledge
  12. Refusal of the Return – No Way Back
  13. Magic Flight – Birds Eye View
  14. Rescue from Without – Actionable Takeaways
  15. Crossing the Return Threshold – Ready to End
  16. Master of Two Worlds – Perfect Mastery of the Old and the New Knowledge
  17. Freedom to Live – The Epic Wrap-Up

A simplified view of the Hero’s Journey can be found in the work of Christopher Vogel. This is geared more towards movie and book writers.

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting the Mentor
  5. Crossing the Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
  8. Ordeal
  9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

At La Fabbrica della Realtà we have elaborated our very own Storytelling Mountain and during our courses we will help you climb it with ease.

  1. Tell your audience who you are.
  2. Tell your audience why you’re there.
  3. Tell your audience why they’re there.
  4. Transform your audience.
  5. Everyone reacts differently.
  6. Mark the most important concept.
  7. Provide a summary.
  8. Provide actionable to-dos.

What Is a Story Arc?

The story arc helps us locate where in the structure of a narrative we find ourselves. The form of an arc is especially good at describing the fact that we start on the ground, we get to great heights, and we land back on the ground at the end of our adventure.

Story arcs usually respect the three-act structure and follow the 17 steps of the hero’s journey. However, the order in which these features of the story arc appear can be shuffled around to follow the needs of the narrative.

Do I Need a Storyboard for Storytelling?

Storytelling can be visual, but it doesn’t need to be. You can tell a compelling story just by laying out your ideas along the story arc, without the need to draw out your scenes.

What Is Transmedia Storytelling?

Today almost everything is transmedia storytelling. By definition, it’s the use of different media, predominantly in an interactive setting, to tell a story.

If you open any social network, you will be the first to witness the combination of writing, videos, pictures, memes, animated gifs that form a collective (somewhat coherent) narrative. That’s transmedia storytelling in the most grassroots of expressions.

Transmedia storytelling can also be the carefully planned and executed juxtaposition of many different mediums on a website or in a video to tell your story.

What Are Some Great Storytelling Examples?

Let’s see three examples of contemporary storytelling.

“One more thing”: That’s the staple of Steve Jobs’s presentations. By leaving the best for last, he managed to end every presentation on a high note and hold the attention of the audience waiting for a final nugget.

“The TED personal story”: This is a formula used in the opening of most TED talks, where the speaker will relate something intimate and seemingly unrelated to the topic. This will then become a core element of the talk going forward.

“The joke”: Jokes are one of the most widespread forms of storytelling and are often used, especially in advertising. The joke has two components: the setup and the payoff. This is a perfect two-act structure in order to drive home a laugh, or just to break through to the audience and get their attention.

What Are the Best Storytelling Companies?

Tesla: This relatively new car company has captured the imagination of thousands of people by introducing models years in advance of production, calling their functionalities with evocative names like “Autopilot” and “Ludicrous mode”, polarizing with the speeches and acts of their founder Elon Musk.

Disney Pixar: Movies like WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story are the maximum expression of the power of stories. They hook 3-year-olds and 99-year-olds with the same passion by exploiting our lust for adventure, beauty, truth, and love.

Netflix: The streaming giant is using data from its users to generate interesting stories and introducing new concepts. Binge-watching was a consumer behavior observed among the platform data before becoming a global buzzword.

Look at this PR story for example: 2017 A Year in Bingeing

There are many more companies that create a narrative which defines their brand. Volvo: family and safety. Nike: freedom and an active life. Toyota: dependability and no frills. IKEA: simple design at a low price. Samsung: high tech for everyone.

How Is Storytelling Used in Corporate Communications?

Storytelling is often used to craft press stories that can travel and give visibility to the messages of the company. The story is used to make data more relevant and memorable and to drive the conversation.

Storytelling is also used when companies need to produce sales materials, presentations for conferences and conventions, and training materials.

How Do You Write a Business Story?

The vision and objective of the company must be clear in order to write a coherent business story.

The purpose of the story is to use the medium (video, text, slides) in order to drive the vision forward. Once this purpose is clear, the storyteller’s job is to find the elements that are most transformational for the audience. This means collecting facts, experiences, data and finding the connection between this material and the target audience.

Finally, the business story should follow one of the most common storytelling structures described in this guide.

Who Is the Corporate Storyteller?

Any individual can be a corporate storyteller as long as they grasp the principles of storytelling and they have access to the core message that the company wants to spread.

Ideally, corporate storytellers work in the communications and marketing departments. Some companies have expert storytellers in the CEO and CMO positions.

What Is Digital Storytelling?

Every media outlet benefits from storytelling, and digital is one of the most flexible spaces in our media landscape. For this reason, storytelling applies to all aspects of digital, starting from articles and blogs and ending with the latest social formats.

How Does Storytelling Apply to Marketing?

Storytelling is involved in most aspects of marketing. A brand can choose to tell their story in a humble or epic way through storytelling: this means putting the brand in context for the consumer and emphasizing the role of the company in the life of the consumer. This can have an effect on all marketing materials produced by the company.

The company may choose the consumer as the hero, and tell their stories. By highlighting how the brand is an enabler of life experiences for their consumers, the brand is lifted up and comes close to the needs of the users.

Overall, any good marketing material uses storytelling to a certain degree. Every payoff, every headline, every video ad follows the rules of the story arc and thus is an expression of storytelling.

How Can I Apply Business Storytelling to Sales?

Storytelling has the power to evoke sensations and emotions in the minds and souls of the audience. This is exactly what successful salespeople want to do to highlight the need or desire for a product or a service.

Storytelling can help sales teams set the stage, introduce the roles of the product/service, highlight the solutions, show the pitfalls of not having the product/service and the lasting benefits of living with the product/service for a long time.

In this sense, storytelling can help through the first engagements with the prospects, all the way to closing the deal.

Can Storytelling Help in B2B Sales?

What we just said about sales applies both if the company is consumer facing, and if the subject of sales are other companies.

The boardroom is the ideal “campfire” because it’s the theater of so many dry, fact-based presentations. By entering a meeting with a well-structured story to tell, you automatically set yourself at an advantage from your competition.

Can I Use Storytelling Within the Workplace?

Storytelling plays a role within the workplace, as it helps create better relationships and experiences. It also helps spread ideas.

Using narratives to manage conflicts: One of the basic skills that need to be introduced in conflict resolution is the ability to see the object of contention from different perspectives. Stories serve exactly that purpose and enable us to step into the shoes of our counterpart to see their point of view and start releasing the tension of conflict.

Using a narrative to interpret the past and shape the future: Storytelling techniques are used for change management and innovation each time the company needs to spread a new vision for the future, or needs their employees to make sense of an event that happened in the past.

Using a narrative in the reasoning process: The decision making that happens continuously in the workplace can be supported by embedding facts into narratives. This makes the facts more relevant, and easy to grasp and to remember.

Where Can I Find Storytelling Courses?

La Fabbrica della Realtà offers – among other topics – professional storytelling courses that dive deep into the principles of storytelling and give participants a rich toolbox of story elements, tactics, and pre-made narratives that can be used in all contexts of a business.

These courses can happen online or in person at your company location. Our trainers can travel to you and customize our course by focusing on specific aspects of storytelling that are more relevant to your sector or positioning.

What Should I Expect From a Storytelling Training?

A great storytelling course leaves you with a useful package of practical tools that you can use to craft an email, prepare a presentation, design an ad, and lead a meeting.

A course should transmit the ability to de-construct the story and understand its principles, and it should provide you with the principles that will allow you to create your own.

The key elements are a deep understanding of the story arc, the three-act structure, and the 12 steps of the hero’s journey, the 17 steps of the monomyth, the 8 steps of the storytelling mountain.

A storytelling course should highlight the types of archetypal characters we are most likely to relate with and the combination of story points that can make your narrative more relatable and understandable.

Finally, a great storytelling course should provide a universal set of tools that you can use to create stories in every medium: from writing to presentation, from photography to film.

How to Find a Storytelling Seminar

Storytelling seminars are offered worldwide by La Fabbrica della Realtà, both in the form of events open to the public and in private classes for teams and organizations.

Your next seminar could be just around the corner: check our dates and locations, or simply inquire to organize an in-house seminar.

When Is World Storytelling Day?

World Storytelling Day is an international celebration of storytelling that takes place every year on March 20th. Born in Sweden, this tradition has spread internationally.

World Storytelling Day is a day to listen and to tell great stories. Each year a theme is chosen. Check next year’s theme on Wikipedia.

Parting thoughts

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to Business Storytelling. If you did, be sure to subscribe to my (almost) monthly newsletter where I share my thoughts on communication, innovation, marketing, and entertainment from my very own personal perspective. And if you’re looking for a corporate training, a seminar or a workshop please reach out and let me know more about your needs.

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