Previously, we already covered why your ability to craft great stories is your secret weapon for thriving in business. 

To view the full series, just click here

I ended the last post on the idea that we need great characters to tell stories that people pay attention to. Let’s get into that now:

CHARACTERS

Just imagine a story without them. It wouldn't be any more exiting than reading the manual of a household appliance.

I often hear my clients tell me 'the problem is that our business is very boring"...

I systematically disagree with this because the truth is that there are no boring businesses.

Let me give you an example: 

A middle-sized insurance company wanted to increase their ability to grow closer relationships with their customers and prospects.

That's why they got more involved on social media but were quickly disappointed at the results.  

They blamed it on the fact that most people think that insurance must be way too boring to pay any attention to. 

Someone pointed them my way to see if I could provide them with some guidance.

It became immediately clear to me that they were telling the wrong stories. 

I told them that, precisely because they were in insurance, they have the great fortune of having some of the best stories to tell that any business can possibly have.

You see, an insurance business has a front row seat to the spectacle of a variety of 'trouble', ranging from the uneventful scratch on a car to major disasters that bring the best and worst out in the people involved. 

Their stories should get really interesting because every now an then they must have rather odd claims coming in. In other words, this is as fertile a story ground as it gets.

I then told the people at this insurance company that it would make for great content to tell people about these stories through the characters that were involved (with fictional names if necessary).

This would not only make these stories come alive, but they would make for amazing content and help educate their customers how to stay out of trouble and show their prospects that their company was ready for the challenges they may face.

It turns out that I never got the business.

That was probably because back then this idea of 'storification' was still a fuzzy idea that was taking shape in my mind. Or maybe it was just that I slid into one of my passionate rants that sometime makes people think I'm a bit of a nutcase...

The way I positioned the concept must have confused them or even seemed somewhat scandalous at the time, but it still remains my favourite example of the fact that no business is boring, provided you feature the right characters to tell it with.

But there is proof everywhere that no setting is too lame for a great story. Let's go to the major league of attention: the world of TV series. 

Take a moment to consider ideas such as ER (hospital) or CSI (a forensic lab) or even Six Feet Under (a funeral parlour). At first sight they seem like boring settings for stories but what really kept us watching were the characters!

What does this have to do with business?

Your people are the story. It's so much easier to connect people with other people that with the values of a brand. 

In fact, the best brands are made up of people.

But the reality is that for many businesses, it is terrifying to connect their audience to individuals because they fear these characters will take the audience hostage or even take them away when they leave. 

I believe this is irrational.

I can best explain this with an example of an industry where personalities are everything: major league sports teams.  

Despite high player turnover rates, these franchises somehow manage to retain their supporters, regardless of the fact that every now and then their stars defect for other teams.

Here's another example: Think about Apple, it's success was pretty much attached to Steve Jobs, but somehow it continues to thrive after he left this world.

But what is even more powerful is when your characters are your customers. I am not referring to the people with perfect teeth on all those stock photos but to the real people who define why you are in business in the first place.  

If you have a good business, it means that you are solving an important problem. 

Make those problems and the solutions come alive with real stories from real people.

Talk about your challenges and your mistakes and tell us what you are learning from them.

Yes, you read that correctly, I said 'mistakes’. 

Sharing what you learn from mistakes is not only the most confident thing a business can do, but it also builds a level of trust that is real. Lessons learned always make for high value content!

OK, so now we have the main elements that define great stories. For now these are just ideas and snippets. In the next letter we will see what we can learn from the wizards that assemble these ideas into scripts that keep the audience focused.

Again, this is not a literature or an entertainment club, nor have I suddenly lost my mind, but what we are doing here is learning how we can earn a business’ most valuable asset: The ongoing attention and support of your target audience.