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The Power of True Stories: Cut Through the Noise and Connect with Customers with Authentic storytelling

The Power of True Stories: Cut Through the Noise and Connect with Customers

We've all heard it - “facts tell, stories sell.” But what makes a compelling story? In today's world of information overload and fleeting attention spans, simply slapping an inspirational quote on a stock photo doesn't cut it anymore. 

In this post, we'll explore what elements turn an anecdote into a memorable story that wins hearts and sparks action. We'll also get real-world tips on how to find and craft authentic stories that help your small business stand out. 

The Universal Power of Authentic storytelling

Stories have a unique effect on our brains. Neuroscience research shows that when we hear a story, it activates the same area of the brain that's stimulated when we actually experience an event. In other words, our brains don't clearly distinguish between a story and real life experience.

That explains the incredible power of stories to sweep us up and get us emotionally invested. Unlike cold hard facts or data, stories raise the stakes to our values, hopes, relationships and struggles. No wonder 63% of people remember stories after a presentation, while only 5% recall straight statistics, according to Chip and Dan Heath’s research.

So what elements unlock this empathetic response from our brains? Rob Biesenbach, a communications expert who helps major brands like Ogilvy and Deloitte tell their stories, breaks it down into 6 key ingredients:

1. Emotion - Stories allow us to vicariously experience characters’ emotional arcs.

2. Faces - Audiences relate to and empathize with the people at the story’s heart.

3. Connectedness - Well-told stories transcend the specifics to tap into universal human truths. 

4. Values - Stories reveal what and who a storyteller cares about.

5. Raised stakes - Going beyond facts to talk about things that deeply matter to characters (and audiences).

6. “Show, don’t tell" - Demonstrating what a company or brand is about through stories, rather than stating claims.

So forget the slick marketing speak about being “innovative” or “results-driven” or providing “unparalleled service.” What story can you tell that shows you walk the walk when it comes to serving customers?

The Anatomy of a Compelling Story 

Biesenbach stresses that not every anecdote or customer review amounts to an engaging story. Just ticking the box of “once upon a time” beginning and “happily ever after” ending isn’t enough. 

Here are the key elements he sees in virtually any powerful, memorable story:

- A compelling character your audience can relate to

- That character pursuing a clear goal

- Obstacles or conflict that stand in the way of the goal

- Overcoming challenges and resolving that central conflict  

Essentially, the character on a journey structure forms the backbone of sturdy stories that stick in our minds, from ancient myths to modern TV series. 

To see this formula in action, Biesenbach analyzes everyone from Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers to Lucy desperately trying drag Ricky onto the vaudeville stage every week on “I Love Lucy.” If you drill down, even a dramatic B2B video like Deloitte’s financial crisis response narrative boils down to relatable characters facing universal struggles.

So remembering this simple story spine can guide you in transforming dry facts into compelling narratives that resonate. Rather than stating “we offer fast turnaround times,” tell a story about the lengths one employee went to to deliver for a client under a tight deadline.

Tap Into Emotion + Values using Authentic storytelling

Once you’ve nailed down the story’s plot and characters, it’s time to connect with audiences on a deeper level. Facts and data alone don’t tend to fire up passion or spur decisions. Neuroscience confirms that emotional engagement drives action in our primal “lizard brains.” 

Biesenbach stresses that every communication can be thought of as:

- What do I want my audience to KNOW (information)

- How do I want them to FEEL (emotion)  

- What do I want them to DO (desired action)

The key is moving people from merely knowing intellectually to feeling an empathetic charge that motivates action, whether that’s contacting your company, sharing your content with peers, or ultimately buying from you.

How do you inject more emotion and values? Biesenbach suggests:

- Get personal about why you care about your work

- Share outside passions beyond office walls 

- Don’t be afraid to tell relatable stories from your own life experience. 

Stirring up these positive emotions forges bonds of trust and rapport that logic and credentials alone can’t match. Of course, you want to avoid manipulative or overly self-centered appeals. The goal is using stories ethically to reveal what makes your brand and employees tick.

For example, an executive could explain an early career failure that taught her to empathize with clients’ learning curves. Or tell funny behind-the-scenes stories that humanize your team’s tireless work ethic and earnestness.

In other words, don’t just tell when you can show.

Hunting for Powerful Stories

Okay, so now we know what transforms mere anecdotes into audience-grabbing stories. We recognize the tried-and-true storyline structure and the pivotal role emotion plays. 

But how do you actually find those stories worth telling?

Biesenbach stresses keeping your “story radar” always on. Look beyond your own industry’s stale tropes to mine surprising sources. He pulls insights on passion and storytelling equally from personalities like Jerry Brown and Ricky Gervais. 

His wide-ranging curiosity allows him to glean story gold from customer conversations, executives’ life experiences, vacation adventures, historical figures - even park signage!

To drill down to the heart of a story:

- Identify your audience and what resonates emotionally. What hopes, values and pain points do you share?

- Get ultra clear on what exactly you want them to know, feel or do after hearing your story. What misconception does it debunk? What deeper human truth does it convey? 

Then ruthlessly prune non-essential details to spotlight only the most stirring elements focused on that core emotional shift you’re aiming for. Resist glomming on facts just because they’re true. What’s most compelling?

The Takeaway

In business and in branding, we all need to tell our story. The companies that will break through and build passionate customer followings know how to lead with authentic stories over dry facts. 

Leverage these insider tips from communications expert Rob Biesenbach to craft high impact narratives worthy of a starring role - ones vivid and courageous enough to be heard over the constant media noise.

Remember, logic might inform but emotion transforms. Serve up stories stirring enough to stimulate both.

Sources cited in this blog post:

Biesenbach, Rob. “Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Build Trust, Win Hearts, Change Minds.” YouTube, uploaded by b2bleads, 11 May 2016,

Heath, Chip and Dan. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Random House, 2007.

Godin, Seth. All Marketers Are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works--and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All. Portfolio, 2005. 


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