To the Point

The Power of Story

Move over facts and figures. Compelling stories can help you personify your brand, engage people, and drive business growth.

conv-0812-sextonWe used to think of a storyteller as the local children’s librarian or a neighborhood kid notorious for telling tall tales. These days, however, storytelling is big business in the corporate world.

And “chief storyteller” titles are popping up at many Fortune 500 companies, including Microsoft, IBM, and Verizon. United Airlines is the latest to add one to its crew.

Some have argued that the title is basically a chief marketing officer with window dressing. But there’s no disputing that the title represents an important shift in marketing and branding philosophy: It’s not enough to simply use facts and figures with your customers, members, or stakeholders. Stories are what will help you personify your brand, engage people, and drive business growth.

Let’s face it, most products and programs are not always all that interesting in and of themselves. It takes a lot to cut through the clutter and generate attention. And these days, consumers are generally more likely to tune out traditional sales pitches and marketing copy. But we all find people interesting. When we can tell stories about what our events, products, or programs can do for people, that’s when our stakeholders start to take notice. They want to see and hear people like them. They want to see and hear people who are like those that they’re trying to reach. These people’s stories then become the mechanism that gives your events, products, and programs life. “Storyteller” titles are yet to catch on in the business-events industry, but no matter. You don’t have to have the buzzword in your title to incorporate storytelling into your work. Whether it’s at our face-to-face events, or in communications throughout the year, the more stories we can use, the better. 

What kinds of stories? It might be how an attendee got started on a new career path, thanks to your last event. Or how a member had been wrestling with a challenge but found support and solutions from your online community. Or maybe it’s a story about how one of your products or programs is helping ease a person’s burden.

There’s no shortage of ways to tell compelling stories — visually with low-cost technology, or through the written word. Or better yet, why not simply give people a way to tell their own stories? It’s an approach we’re trying right now with the #WhyIGoToPCMACL campaign. All we did was to create a sign that people can print out and photograph themselves with, then they can post their own stories using the hashtag and tagging PCMA.

Is storytelling a new concept that will end the challenge of connecting with stakeholders and make everyone live happily ever after? No. But there is much to be gained when we can move from telling people everything there is to know about our events or programs, to telling them compelling stories about how our events move people and how our programs change lives. 

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.