“Those who tell stories rule the world.” – Plato
Every entrepreneur navigating the startup world inherently understands the value of a good story. It’s ingrained in our culture. The challenge, however, is taking the time and asking the right questions to develop that story into something bigger -- a marketing tool that converts, inspires and, ultimately, leads to financial success for both your company and investors.
This topic was explored at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin this weekend in a presentation by Lyn Graft, an Austin entrepreneur and videographer who has filmed more than 350 entrepreneurs and their stories. Despite the badge lines, rain and the crowds trying to find their way around SXSW, this topic was great for entrepreneurs to ponder over the weekend. Speaking to a packed crowd at the Startup Village, Graft laid out simple ways to answer the most important question in regards to storytelling: knowing what to say when someone asks, “Why should I care?”
An easy mistake is to believe that a story is just a clever way of delivering facts. There’s a place for facts, of course, but facts are not the core of storytelling. Leaving an impression is. The stakes have never been higher. Millions of entrepreneurs are fighting for people’s time, talent and treasure. A venture capitalist may get pitched up to 1,000 times in a year. An entrepreneur’s story that can make a permanent, physical impression on a key person. Graft calls it “the Goosebump moment.” And it can be the difference between success and failure.
Starting off requires a bit of soul-searching about your company. What’s the one thing that makes your brand or product unique? If your category is a sea of sameness, why do you stand out? Once you have identified the soul of your company – that one, unique thing, you can begin crafting your story. Here are some other tips from Graft's talk at SWSW.
1. Speak from the heart. It’s OK to get personal. Look deep down, and figure out why you are doing what you are doing. And then share your answer with other people. Most people will want to see you succeed. An authentic level of honesty about yourself and your company can go a long way.
2. Evoke emotion. This step is about making an emotional connection with someone else. Make ample use of personal anecdotes, video, photography or other imagery to help drive home your story.
3. Be receptive to feedback. Graft calls this “Avoiding Ugly Babies.” Basically, everyone who has a baby thinks his or her baby is the most beautiful baby in the world when common opinion can be quite different. Avoid the trap of believing that your story is already great. Peer feedback from people who are not as close to your brand is the easiest way to hone your story and give it greater impact.
4. Find your champions. These are people who feel empowered to share your message with others, to weave their own stories into your content. If your brand narrative can start with your own story and finish with someone turning it into their own story and passing it on, then you have all the proof you need to know you’ve answered the question, “Why should I care?”
Want some more food for thought? Lyn Graft recommends these sites as great storytelling resources:
What about you? Has your story found its own “Goosebump moment” yet?
Related: SXSW 2012 Kicks Off (Video)