Every leader is an artist, using their business to tell the story of a world they wish to see. When we explore and share our stories, we can leverage them as beacons to attract our most ideal customers and build a stronger narrative in branding our businesses.
The Benefits of Effective Storytelling for Businesses
When done authentically, business storytelling inspires a profound level of trust between your business and its stakeholders. When a business tells its story, all parties in that company’s ecosystem — customers, employees, vendors, investors, and the communities in which it operates — have the opportunity to see themselves more clearly through the company story. The result is that people’s sense of identity becomes directly tied to the business, deepening loyalty, heightening engagement, and driving a connection between personal and organizational purpose.
We are all part of a storytelling ecosystem. People are naturally wired to tell stories through their priorities, decisions, and behaviors — and are wired to read into others’ behavior, too. The same goes for businesses and brands. By learning how to build a brand narrative that is aligned with your company’s authentic spirit by practicing effective storytelling for business, you can shift that ecosystem into an intentional one with an undeniable gravity that will attract more of your tribe.
Exploring your business story might seem impersonal, but it’s a vulnerable process. It requires the courage to dig deeper and move beyond the dinner table stories you might regularly share with others. The following business storytelling strategies will help you build a stronger narrative in your branding and present a more authentic version of your business to the world:
1. Use business storytelling to level up.
Unpacking your organization’s story has both an immediate and lasting impact on the business. The process has a cascading effect. It encourages those who have been with the business the longest to share the ups and downs. When others respond to these stories with admiration, love, and gratitude, your team will be transformed. Knowing they are part of those early days of heroism invites other employees to access their personal power within the business. In turn, you’ll see greater alignment with your purpose, which will attract more opportunities that inspire your organization and challenge it to develop further.
One of the first leaders I helped with effective storytelling for business was James Balestrieri, the founder and CEO of ORP (recently renamed MyPath). At the time, ORP employed 2,000 professionals who cared for about 2,000 children with disabilities. Clients, staff members, and leadership all participated in creating a library (made up of 18 titles) that heightened every stakeholder’s understanding of their place in ORP’s story. The company printed and distributed nearly 50,000 books, which helped grow the business by 15%. Jim called the project his legacy — and he soon retired and converted the business to an employee-owned company.
While some leaders will follow Jim’s example and document their business legacy before they retire, others will use storytelling to elevate their purpose so they can stay and write the next chapter of their businesses. Going through the process of connecting the dots of where your business has been, what it has learned, and what it has prepared to take on next offers a new level of clarity that you can use to strengthen your mission and heighten your impact.
If you share your story by publishing a book, that book can become the central hub from which you and your team move the needle forward aggressively. Your business book can also become the foundation from which you explore other ways to share your story, such as a documentary or animated film.
3. Differentiate yourself with effective storytelling for business.
Brilliantly executed storytelling can be a key differentiator in the marketplace. When your business storytelling is elevated to the realm of art, it demands attention and forces existing stakeholders to see your organization with fresh eyes while generating a level of respect within your industry that helps your company stand out.
For example, we worked closely with PayActiv — the inventor of earned wage access — to differentiate itself in the marketplace. We were most moved by the ways the company treated its users as sacred and as priorities among PayActiv’s stakeholders. We initially created a documentary film that captured and amplified that sense of heart we felt. The short film “It’s About Time” is a story-driven piece of content that moves the viewer to not only relate to the hourly workers PayActiv serves, but also to get angry enough about the injustices these workers face to take action.
Every business has a heart that can be expressed through storytelling. It’s OK if the idea of getting vulnerable in telling that story makes you uncomfortable. That’s appropriate and will help ensure you are thoughtful about who you partner with, what you say, and the medium in which you share your story. When you allow yourself to get curious about what your organization was, what it has become, what circumstances have shaped it, and what values define it, you’ll elevate your business to incredible new heights. Your organization’s story is brilliant — consider telling it.
For help getting comfortable with being vulnerable, download my company’s guide on how to host a vulnerability session at your organization.