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Storytelling: 2015’s Most Powerful Strategic Business Weapon

22 Jan Storytelling: 2015’s Most Powerful Strategic Business Weapon

The battleground has shifted.  As technology has reshaped industries and leveled the playing field, anything you can imagine, you can now build or do.  In today’s global, internet-powered economy,  filled with crowded marketplaces, startups seeking to break out as the next Google or Facebook, and top-tier talent beginning to seek new horizons in an improving economy, it’s not enough to offer up data, research and facts.  To thrive in 2015, you need a compelling, engaging, magnetic story.

Whether it’s startups and tech companies seeking funding, businesses breaking into new markets, or an innovative idea to stimulate the economy, the difference between success and failure increasingly rests in quality storytelling that moves people to action.

It’s not surprising.  People are attracted to stories.  Storytelling evokes strong neurological responses that releases oxytocin, triggers the limbic system, and releases dopamine, making us feel more optimistic and hopeful.   It’s the method by which we humans have been engaging, provoking, inspiring and connecting to each other since stories were first communicated through stick figures drawn on cave walls.

But quality storytelling is more difficult than it seems.  While the specifics of storytelling are relatively easy to articulate, it’s the nuances that make a story distinct.  As visionary entrepreneurs and leaders discover the direct effect quality storytelling has on revenue, uniting teams, and creating loyal customers that resonate deeply with a brand, they’re relearning how to tap into the power of a trust-inducing well-crafted story.

This resulted in 2014 emerging as the year of the story, with corporations nationally paying upwards of $6,000 to $25,000 for speeches and training on crafting  pitches and improving their story alone.  Those early-adopters with a sense of urgency a step ahead of the game have already crafted theirs.

Knowing that data can persuade, but doesn’t inspire action;  a greater shift was made in 2014, as entrepreneurs, businesses and forward-thinking leaders enlisted storytellers to connect and engage with potential audiences in a powerful way designed to change attitudes and drive behavior.

Communications as a simple method of reporting events, seeking press opportunities as mere quote-gathering for ego-placement, or the ever-seductive rush to designers to produce beautifully constructed marketing materials now often results in nothing more than creating for the sake of creating.  Utilizing outdated methods,  over-used buzzwords, and a look and language that sounds stilted, conveys an organization that is unapproachable and falling behind.

 Today’s world requires a different approach and a new dialogue rooted in strategy and story.  Well-funded data and research, well-memorized speeches and well-rehearsed elevator pitches no longer easily inspire or move people to action.   As audiences, especially millennials, become more sophisticated and craft lives that follow non-traditional paths including non-traditional expectations, the seemingly old-fashioned tradition of storytelling has emerged as the most direct way to reach hearts and minds of critical audiences.   While financials still matters to investors, ‘your’ story is now ‘the’ story.

Telling a focused, clear, compelling story backed by powerful strategy isn’t just for startups making a pitch.  It can help board members understand a company’s goals or get employees in large companies to better relate to workers in other departments.

And yes.  A well-crafted story combined with a well-executed strategy can not only build an organizational culture that attracts the best and brightest talent, it can drive profit, innovation, and social change.

Quality storytelling isn’t a gift or talent.  It’s a craft.  It’s a craft that takes time, effort and hard work to do well.  And the trend that started last year will continue.  Success in 2015 will require  storytelling that wraps your vision up in a tale that fires the imagination, stirs the soul, and moves your critical audience to action.

(This article appeared in Inside Indiana Business here.)