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Looking to Advance Your Career? Let Me Tell You a Story

02/11/2015 03:44 pm ET | Updated Apr 13, 2015

"The best way to unite an idea with emotion is by telling a compelling story".
--Robert Mckee, Fulbright Scholar, screenwriting & lecturer


With the intense competition in today's marketplace, business owners are always searching for new and better ways to become memorable to their market. The art of storytelling can help anyone in business make a clear and impactful case for their product or services. It can also help attract customers and build momentum for your brand or organization.

First, you need to understand the purpose of your story as it relates specifically to your customers' needs and go beyond explaining the features and benefits of your company to the essence of what will inspire your target market. Know your perspective customers sensibilities so you can give them a reason to identify with your brand, then weave a concise story that captures the purpose behind your product offering that your market won't forget.

Successful marketers use various forms of storytelling to unite an idea with people's subconscious desires. Each brand's unique story captures their audience's imagination and gets them to want the item as a means to connect with the brand's identity. Success, prestige, athletic prowess, bravery, making a difference, and being triumphant over nature are aspirations that attract consumers to buy.

Encapsulate the image of your firm into a single phrase or into images that capture your audience's imagination and capitalize on their deeper yearnings.

Foster an emotional connection

Nike's Tagline 'Just Do It' captures the idea of going beyond what one thinks he's capable of. 'Just Do It' has become a catch phrase for anyone that is bold, brave and daring.

Make them a part of a charitable community

Tom's shoes have an effect on their fans by sharing pictures of those they've helped. Their campaign strives to build a community around a charity tapping into people's desire to see the impact they were having around the world.

Attach them to greatness

Rolex is focused on the supreme craftsmanship and innovativeness of its watches, as well as the historic event and milestones they've witnessed. The state-of-the-art watch has been shown being worn by the British race-car driver who broke the world's speed record, by members of John Hunt's expedition as they ascended Mount Everest, as well as world-class athletes like Roger Federer, Jack Nicholas and Tiger Woods during winning tournaments. People are drawn to the product from a desire to attach to its prestige and the heroic feats of the brand ambassadors.

Build momentum: Create "YOUR Story"

Who is your audience and what is your goal? People are attracted to new products or services that fill a need, and make and improve the quality of their life. The reason you tell a 'business story' may be quite different from the reason you tell a story at a party, but great storytellers use the same basic techniques.

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, writes, "Right-brain dominance is the new source of competitive advantage." Tapping the right side of the brain allows for deeper engagement by uniting an idea with an emotion. So what's the best way to do this? Learn the techniques on how to tell a compelling story.

Pink says that no matter whom you're trying to influence, you'll need to "start with a deep understanding of your audience, and ensure your story has a clear and powerful meaning -- to them. Then you can get to work honing it for maximum impact." He starts out with a story that surprises to capture our attention. "I need to make a confession at the outset here. A little over 20 years ago I did something that I regret, something that I'm not particularly proud of, something that, in many ways, I wish no one would ever know, but here I feel kind of obliged to reveal. (Laughter) In the late 1980s, in a moment of youthful indiscretion, I went to law school."

Pattie Sellers, Senior Editor at Large for Fortune magazine, encourages entrepreneurs to tell their story and to make it authentic. She says in her YouTube, "Tell Your Own Story" that storytelling via social media is useful for people now more than ever, as you have the opportunity through social media to tell your story at length.

Become a great storyteller

Filmmaker, Andrew Stanton, co-writer of the Toy Story movies, says that a great story comes from using what you know, capturing a truth from experiencing it, and from expressing values you feel deeply. He suggested in a recent TEDTalk that you allow the listener to make his own deductions about you from the story. That is, don't come out and say you're collaborative, adaptable or anything - you tell a story that convinces your listener you possess these traits. Stanton says that a well-told tale grips, excites and engrosses.

Stanton's five storytelling tips to engage your audience and enhance your business's brand

1. Make me care

Speak your target's language, create engaging content and tie it to their passions, journeys, great moments, their loved ones, their ever day life, their favorite places and ideologies that matter to them.

2. Take me with you

Gain their attention by sharing an idea that creates a shared vision and inspires. Use your story to offer an escape or a sense that using the product or service could help them enjoy a breakthrough or resolve a conflict.

3. Be intentional

Know why you're there. All your points, though couched in a story, should be focused on the benefits of your product or service offering.

4. Let me like you


Help them identify with your characters. People identify with those who met challenges, persevered and overcame them in a dignified way.

5. Delight me

Create a sense of anticipation. Get your audience to want to know what will happen next? And more importantly, make them want to know how it will all conclude in the long-term.

Construct honest conflicts with truth that creates doubt in what the outcome might be and then show them how your business solution resolves the conflict seamlessly.

Entrepreneurs and Leaders who've Used Storytelling to Influence their Audience

Mandalay Entertainment CEO and high-profile Hollywood producer Peter Guber states that the ability to weave a tale is among the most powerful elements in any leader's repertoire. So who does he count among the world's best storytellers?

· Steve Jobs: " He knows his devotees can't just be customers--he needs apostles for his products who tell his story as their own and move it forward. Look at the lines in front of his stores when he opens new products. After he tells his story, the reaction reminds me of folks waiting for a big movie opening."

· Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank: "Kevin uses stories to create the impression among athletes that wearing Under Armour beneath your game shirt is a way to drive and fulfill your aspirations as a competitor. He takes a story about perspiration and brings it to the level of inspiration."

· Lynda Resnick, CEO of POM Wonderful and many other businesses: "Story is Lynda's mantra. If she can't find the story she can tell in the product, she simply doesn't sell the product. Whether it is POM Wonderful, the pomegranate juice, Get Crackin' pistachios, or replicas of Jackie O's pearls, her narrative wins the day and hearts of her audience."

If your stories are meaningful, succinct and are tied to the values and interests of your market, they could make you more memorable in the marketplace. The connection you build with your market through telling a great story could build momentum and excitement around your brand and your organization.

Whether you're trying to get investors, enhance sales or simply explain your business to others, stories are far more memorable than facts alone. Stories shouldn't be left to "storytellers"-fiction writers, journalists and filmmakers. In today's hyper competitive market it's your story that will make you memorable, funny, smart and special in the mind of people you're trying to persuade. And it could be the irresistible tool that connects you with your target audience giving you precisely the advantage you need to succeed.