When I talk about storytelling for business, it has occurred to me that I am referring to something that is more akin to branding. I often introduce myself as the small business storyteller, and people usually respond with something like, “So, what kind of stories do you tell?” I then have to explain that–while telling individual stories is certainly a piece of storytelling for business–what I focus on is the one, cohesive, core story that your business is presenting.
So, when I say, “Your story,” I am not talking about a press release. I am not talking about your company history. I am not talking about a case study. Those are all individual stories that may play into your overall story. But, when I say, “your story,” I am talking about everything that goes into what you do and how it is perceived by those who interact with you. Your story is your brand. Your identity. It’s what distinguishes you from everything else. You are your story.
The 2 Parts of a Business’s Story
Peter Drucker is famous for saying that there are two essential functions of any business: innovation and marketing. Essentially, Drucker is saying that all businesses do the same thing: make something and sell it. Whether it is a product, service, or idea, you are in a constant cycle of creation and communication. That’s business.
The story model falls right in line with Drucker’s philosophy. I simply use different terminology. There are two parts to every business, regardless of industry or customer. They are:
- Crafting the story.
- Telling the story.
Crafting the story has to do with internal operations. It’s everything from your bookkeeping to your HR to your supply chain. It’s the values with which you go about your work. Every decision that’s made, every moment that passes, your story is being crafted. Are you aware of the story you are creating?
Telling the story has to do with external communications. It’s how you translate the story you’ve crafted into an image that your stakeholders can appreciate. It’s found in marketing, customer service, PR, and sales. It is any commentary you create on what you’ve done as a business. You have an amazing story. Are you properly communicating it to those that matter?
To have successful business story, you need both a well-crafted story and a well-told story. If you tell a story that is inconsistent with the one you’ve created, you will be found out. Your credibility will be ruined and the damage done to your brand will be irreparable. Never lie. Period. Don’t tell a story that you don’t actually have. That’s just common sense.
But you also don’t want to miss out on telling the story that you do have. Too many times, businesses are doing amazing things that slip through the cracks and do not get publicized. In his book, Lead with a Story, organizational storyteller Paul Smith tells the story of a Pizza Hut employee who made a meatball sub for a woman whose husband was on his deathbed and wanted that as his last meal–even though the option wasn’t on the menu. The story was never communicated, though, and Pizza Hut failed to communicate the amazing customer service its employees were offering.
Take a look at your business. What kind of story is it crafting? What kind of story is it telling? Are they consistent? Are they compelling? If not, think about what needs to change…and get busy changing it.