Learn to Tell Your Community’s Story

An area I have been exploring lately has been the role of storytelling in branding. Storytellers have shaped our societies and the way we think for all of recorded history, and before that to the days of cave paintings. The 35,000-year-old paintings on the walls of the Lascaux Caves are our earliest recorded evidence of storytelling, and since Lascaux dozens of other examples have been discovered.

John Kotter wrote a piece on the power of storytelling. He said “Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best–and change–from hearing stories that strike a chord within us.” Robert McKee wrote this about the power of storytelling – “Accurate information, sound logic, and the facts are necessary, of course, but truly effective leaders in any field — including technical ones — know how to tell “the story” of their particular research endeavor, technological quest, or marketing plan, etc.”

Stories Make a Lasting Impression

CEOs are beginning to embrace and understand their role as corporate storytellers, and the profound impact it can have on organizational performance. I am exploring the role of storytelling on building a community’s image and making it more competitive for capital investment.

The fact is, our brains are wired for stories. Keith Oatley is a professor of applied cognitive psychology and a novelist. He describes stories as “simulations that run on minds”. He says that just as pilots-in-training spend time on flight simulators, stories may act as flight simulators for real life.

Psychological research studies are determining that emotions in stories enhance the listener’s understanding and retention of the message and attachment with the subject. It evokes empathy and listeners tend to connect the stories they hear with events that happened in their own lives. This is exactly what you want to happen when telling the story of your community. You want potential capital investors to relate to your community on a personal level. The primary benefits of investing capital in your community are more likely to be remembered if told through a story instead of a simple sharing of facts.

Storytelling is an informal learning technique. It is subjective. Many formal training programs & corporate presentations focus on the objective rather than the subjective. That may be why so many corporate training programs are less than effective. Storytelling is personal to the teller and the listener. It allows the listener to envision himself or herself in the story.

Six Typical Story Types You Can Tell

  1. The Who Am I Story – A story about your community’s history.
  2. The Why Am I Here Story – A story about the ability of your community to meet the needs of the capital investor.
  3. The Teaching Story – A story about another company’s success after investing capital in your community.
  4. The Vision Story – A story about what the future will look like if your community is selected for capital investment.
  5. The Values in Action Story – A story that talks about how well your community’s and the company’s culture are aligned.
  6. The I Know What you Are Thinking Story – A story that addresses and dispels an objection to selecting your community for capital investment.

Once You Pick the Story Type, Tell it Well

A story is a reimagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imagination to experience it as real. You can’t make people listen to your stories, but you can tell stories worth listening to. (Entice, inspire, cajole, stimulate)

Be sure to focus on telling the most important thing well. What is the reason for the story? Be certain your story delivers on the reason. Get it right. Remember, you don’t have to tell the story the same every time, just get the most important thing right every time.

Great stories need emotion. If you don’t feel the emotion, don’t tell the story. You may be better served by getting somebody else in your community to tell the story. Often, executives in a target industry have far more emotion about the industry and why you community is a good choice than you may. Leverage these Ambassadors to make absolutely certain emotion is infused in your storytelling. Remember, emotion makes the story “stick” with your listener. You want the listener to recall your community story when a decision is being made on their capital investment project.

Earlier Posts on Storytelling

Every Community Has A Story – What’s Yours?

More on Storytelling

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