Business stories are great for engaging audiences; they showcase the personality behind success, and highlight what makes you an authority in your field. However, most businesses keep quiet and don’t open up. My research suggests that most business owners appreciate the value of their story, but they don’t know how to articulate it.
So, below is a 5-step process for creating business stories. Firstly, you need to answer five questions.
The 5 W’s
- Who (or what) is your story about?
- What happened?
- When did it take place?
- Where did it take place?
- Why did it happen?
By answering the 5 W’s you’ll create the basic content for your story, but this part of the process only furnishes you with the raw facts, not the story itself. Next, you have to probe into the facts and see what really sparks interest.
The 4 P’s
The 4 P’s arouse curiosity and cause people to want to learn more. Let’s look at these in more detail.
Princes: A Prince is anyone or anything you can name, but you don’t need to explain. Richard Branson is a Prince; you don’t need to mention that he’s the founder of Virgin. Google is also a Prince; it’s not a person, but things can be Princes too – everyone knows what Google is about, no explanation necessary.
Within your own business, your CEO is a Prince, as is the receptionist. Is there a Prince in your story? Someone or something that is familiar and your audience will immediately recognise without prompting?
Purses: In the western world we’re obsessed with money: complaining about it; dreaming of it; spending it; making it; losing and winning it. The more extreme the value, high or low, the more people want to hear about it. The world loves a story of an entrepreneur that risks everything and wins it all. Equally, they like to hear about the billionaire who bets everything on black only to watch it come up red.
Pets: We love our pets more than our neighbours, and in some cases more than our own flesh and blood. They star in films, TV, adverts, magazines and they dominate the Web. So don’t underestimate the power of cute animals. If one appears in your story, tell us.
Places: News editors know the value of presenting a local angle to a story; this is because the place you were born, live, work, spend your holidays etc., are all incredibly relevant to you. Places provide context – you can just say the name of some locations and it will conjure up strong emotive images: An evening in Paris, Christmas in New York, or a Caribbean sunset. Equally, you can use localised places that are familiar to the audience, such as the town your business is located, the boardroom or the local coffee shop.
Stories contain three distinct parts and follow a very definite sequence, commonly known as the Three Acts.
Act 1: An inciting incident, otherwise known as the problem or obstacle
The objective of Act 1 is to gain the interest of your audience. To do this, you must set out a problem or obstacle and introduce the person who will attempt to overcome it. By introducing a problem or obstacle, you will set in motion a natural desire, driven by curiosity, to hear the outcome. Now you have the audience’s attention, you can provide additional information to help give context.
Act 2: Conflict or struggle
Stories come to life when there is a conflict or struggle. For example, the bank that refused you a loan – starving you of progression – a technological challenge that seemed impossible to overcome, or a looming deadline. The conflict or struggle provides the resistance for the hero to push back against, thus creating tension, and nothing holds an audience’s attention quite like tension.
If they were already keen to hear what happened next, introducing the added conflict should ensure their undivided attention, making them fully engaged and curious to hear the resolution.
Act 3: The Resolve
This is where you demonstrate what the hero of the story (probably you), learned as a result of overcoming the struggle. The resolve can also be used to highlight what you stand for and the additional value you can offer thanks to your unique journey, or what the world will look like once you’ve achieved your vision.
So when you’re writing Act 3, ask yourself: what’s different as a result of the struggle during Act 2?
The story of a rich man who stays rich isn’t really a story at all, yet a rich man who loses everything and becomes poor, or a poor man who creates riches, contains the journey that creates engaging content.
It’s an unarguable fact that you can’t be in both a positive and negative state of mind at exactly the same time. The brain can only be in one state at any single moment; it can, however, move at speed between states that are poles apart. Stories are the same: they cannot be happy and sad at exactly the same moment, but they can quickly flip from one emotional state to another. By switching between two states, your story will stir emotions in the audience and keep them hooked.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to find those two states. They are simply the opposite of whatever the current state is at any given point in the story: happy switches to sad, success to failure, up becomes down, strong to weak, assurance gives way to fear, laughter turns to tears, hot to cold, fast to slow and on is suddenly off.
Create a killer headline
How many books have you purchased based solely on the title? How many videos have you watched online because the title intrigued you? Now consider the huge amount of very similar content you must have ignored because the headline failed to grab your attention.
The role of the headline is to intrigue your audience as fast as possible. This is universally true, whether you’re writing a headline for a conference where you want bums on seats, writing a headline for an internal memo that staff need to actually read, or writing a headline for a blog.
So here are the three main types of headline you can use:
- Promise: Where the reader is offered a very clear promise.
- Intrigue: Something that will draw people in and make them want to learn more.
- News: Something new and interesting.
That’s the basic 5-step process for creating authentic business stories. Now learn how to apply the power of story to your content by Clicking here.