Storytelling isn’t a tool that fits all management situations in the company. Good communication is adapted to the situation and appeals to both sense and sensibility. It depends on the appropriate use of each individual communication measure. Effective leadership communication uses many formats, including storytelling, which is why we want to discuss its strategic use more in detail in the following.
The more intensive consulting needed, the more important the story
Long-term and costly decisions depend very often on the advice of a specific person. That calls for a great deal of trust, sympathy, and both sides should stand for the same values - and storytelling can do the magic.
A consultant is generally more successful if he or she reveals something personal in the conversation to build up a relationship and trust with the other person. With storytelling this can be achieved effortlessly, for instance, by developing video portraits of the consultants, some quickly recorded Instagram stories, an interview article for the website or a podcast. This gives potential customers an impression of the people behind the scenes.
Regardless of the format, the following principles apply to storytelling:
- How do moments of success feel to you? Recognize what motivates your customers every day and reduce this in possibly to a common denominator.
- What do you stand for as a person? What is particularly important to you when working with other people? Have there been situations where your values have been put to the test and how have you mastered them? Where did you get these values from in the first place? It's about building an honest relationship with the customer, so be authentic and dare to reveal something about yourself as a person and tell episodes or anecdotes from your real life. The more specific, the more credible your stories will be.
- No advertising please! Even if it's tempting, storytelling doesn't mean being the star of your own show. Rather, it's about your customers knowing who they're really dealing with. This includes rough edges as well as setbacks. If you manage to emerge stronger from setbacks, the audience will trust you the more, Anyway, it’s definitely better than simply stirring the advertising drum.
Tip: A manager should first tell himself good stories to get into a good, emotionally positive, and powerful state. This makes it easier to tell positive stories. That is why it is particularly important in such times to keep employees on the ball. Employees who are paralyzed with fear for their job and the future are unable to help the company out of the crisis. These employees achieve small and large successes every day: one has turned a prospect into a customer, another has found an important spare part after long research.
Generally, customers hear three types of stories:
- First, stories that have the customer as a hero and how the customer (with the help of the company) solves their problems. One way to do this is to obtain references and publish them on the website – just make sure that it's not the company that is the hero, but the customer.
- Second, stories that express the basic motives and values by which the company lives. Mostly it is the founding story. This allows the customer to identify with the company and gives him security in knowing who he is dealing with.
- Third, knowledge stories that tell the customer what the company is doing to solve the problem: describing the problematic situation, then explaining what is involved with solving this problem and thirdly proposing a solution.
Checklist for storytelling
- Good preparation, especially when it comes to content and messages
- Do not start with your own interests, but think about the needs of the listeners
- Create a supply of stories to tell the right story for different situations
- Be aware that communication with employees is as important as that with customers.
- Talk intelligibly.
- The story can also be short – since you can watch 90-minute stories in the cinema.
- Practice stories, especially before important situations. If necessary, a consultant will help
Obviously, our brain is addicted to stories, making storytelling one of the most powerful communication tools to address hearts and minds. Used strategically, it has the effect of instilling trust, sympathy, and enthusiasm. In addition, storytelling is pretty much the only way to really change people's beliefs and self-images over the long term.
By Daniela La Marca