(Note: This post was originally written for SocialEarth.org.)
Socially responsible enterprises thrive because they are able to move people to change. How do they do this? By tapping into the emotional connections that inspire.
Stories act like catalysts to action. Businesses should take note.
In the old, business-as-usual paradigm of getting information across about your business, think of the familiar tools you’ve used: Powerpoint presentations, jargon-laden bullet point lists, sterling but stale reports and policy briefs, manifestos that are intellectually seductive, though emotionally hollow. What do they have in common? These are tools and techniques that convey information but don’t do much else for your cause. Numbers are the lingua franca of business, but I argue that much more can be gained in adding storytelling strategies to your campaigns.
Companies that are focused on a business idea that solves a social or environmental problem, or are trying to make a change in the communities around them have one thorny obstacle to overcome: the inertia of indifference and getting buy-in from your market. Your target market has to care enough to use your products or services not because you tell them it’s good for them and the community around them, but because they feel moved at some level to do business with you.
What Businesses Can Learn from Writers
Social enterprises can improve the way they do business by focusing on good storytelling– in their marketing and promotional campaigns, in the way they give people glimpses of their ventures, and in how they interact with customers or clients. Storytelling humanizes your business. A good story connects your business to your target market in a very visceral and potent way.
Why should a business care about telling a good story? Stories are what make up our lives. They make us feel connected, alive. They provide the material that moves people to act. As an editor, I always tell authors I work with that their first job is to get their works read. No self-respecting writer should dismiss the value of readership.
It’s the same in business. Don’t dismiss the value of reaching out to your clients, your employees, and the community around you. If people are inspired and compelled by your story, then they will want to know more about you and your company. By exploiting that intrinsic love of a good yarn, many businesses can start forming that invaluable base of followers, clients, fans, and admirers.
Constructing a good story and compelling narrative isn’t rocket science, though it often makes people nervous. “I’m not a writer,” they say. How do you get started? Read the rest of our article at SocialEarth.org.