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3 Crucial Elements for Engaging Stories

Do you know the difference between a great story and one that makes you want to smash your face against a desk? Engagement! Great stories grip us by the shoulders and keep us involved until the very end. Bad stories speak to nobody. They don’t give the audience a reason to stick around. Still worse, they are like a relationship turned sour. You want it to work so badly, but it turns out toxic for all parties involved.

Your job as an entrepreneur is to create engaging stories for your specific audience. This is no simple task. Do any of these challenges sound familiar?
  • “I don’t have the time to write fantastic content.”
  • “I want to write great stories but I don’t know where to start.”
  • “I don’t have the money to hire anyone to write content.”
Today I’m going to show you that you don't need months to write great stories. You don’t need an advanced degree, and you don’t need mounds of cash to develop a great story. All you need is a simple process.

Why do I need to tell a great story?

First off let’s dive into the science behind storytelling. Why do stories work where other methods fail? It’s no secret that your customers don’t want to be sold to. But can stories actually convince your audience to take action? What’s the purpose of storytelling in the first place?

Princeton University scientists conducted a test to determine what happens to the brain when it hears a story. Participants were hooked up to an MRI machine as they listened to a recorded story through headphones.

The results showed that when you hear a story, you experience “the exact same brain pattern” as the storyteller. In other words, as a person describes the smell of oranges, your olfactory cortex (part of the brain associated with smell) lights up. A fictional story can elicit real chemical reactions in the body.

Stories then can be used to control and manipulate emotion, for better or worse. The storyteller is your brand or company. You have complete power to choose how your audience should react to your message. Every good story has at least three parts. A conflict, some characters, and a resolution.

1. Conflict

Who is Batman without Joker? Or Harry Potter without Voldemort? Every good story has some sort of conflict. At its most basic level, the conflict is a problem that blocks someone from achieving something.

Source
Unless your company is involved with Hollywood hits, your conflict probably won’t center around defeating an evil villain to restore balance to the universe. And that’s ok, just as long as you recognize what the real problem is for your real customers. What is it that they want? What is stopping them from achieving that desire? Take a look at the picture below.

Conflict: The average sticky note will not work in tough, rugged outdoor working conditions.

Audience: Blue collar workers who spend lots of time outdoors for their work.

Solution: Understanding the audience and the problem leads naturally to the solution. Post-it Extreme Notes are built tough, designed to work in any weather condition with extreme stickiness. This appeals to workers who spend most of their time in rugged outdoor conditions.

2. Audience

Who will benefit most from your book, product, or service? Sometimes this is not the audience you have in mind first.

For example, in 1998 Max Levchin helped start the company PayPal. At first, the company only created security software for handheld devices. But in the early 2000s, they noticed something rather odd. Max helped develop a way to transfer money from one handheld device to another. But more people started to use the internet “demo” to transfer funds rather than the actual handheld product. Instead of holding on to the original idea they jumped ship and in return catered to millions of customers rather than just thousands of handheld users.

Take a look at the example below. Who benefits most from this product?

Source
Conflict: Busy lifestyles leave less time for basic hygiene such as brushing teeth. Travel restrictions leave less room in your luggage for your hygiene needs.

Audience: Corporate America, or your average 9 to 5 worker who spends lots of time traveling but still need to brush their teeth.

Resolution: Colgate Wisp allows you to brush your teeth quickly and discreetly while traveling.

3. Resolution

Understanding the audience and the problem leads naturally to the solution. Before you jump to conclusions, make sure to test your ideas in real situations with real people. Always be willing to adapt. Fill in the gaps where other products and services fall short.

Let’s take a look at the young gunz in the yogurt industry--Chobani. They are up against marketing giants like General Mills. Instead of trying to create the same exact yogurt they dived head first into the greek yogurt niche. This works because it was an area that had never been successfully explored before.

Source
Conflict: No fresh yogurt made from natural ingredients existed in large supermarkets.

Audience: Health and fitness nuts and those looking for natural yogurt for their body.

Resolution: Chobani is made from all natural ingredients and eliminates most chemical manufacturing, thus creating a superior yogurt for those looking for healthy alternatives.

So now you know the only three parts that really matter when it comes to creating a great story for your product or brand. You also know why stories help motivate and drive customers to action. Today is the day to create your story.

What conflicts block your audience from achieving their needs? What products or services offer the best resolution?

SOURCES

Gasparro, A., & Chaudhuri, S. (2017, July 06). So Long, Hamburger Helper: America's Venerable Food Brands Are Struggling. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/so-long-hamburger-helper-americas-venerable-food-brands-are-struggling-1499363414

Heath, C., Heath, D., & Heath, D. (2014). Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work. Random House Business.

The Science of Storytelling. (2017, December 13). Retrieved from https://www.scienceofpeople.com/the-science-of-storytelling/

The Science of the Story. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/science_of_the_story

Widrich, L., & Chen, W. (2016, February 01). What Storytelling Does to Our Brains. Retrieved from https://blog.bufferapp.com/science-of-storytelling-why-telling-a-story-is-the-most-powerful-way-to-activate-our-brains

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