Using Storytelling For A Better User Experience

Everyone loves a good story. Listening to one. Reading one. Watching one.

And some people love being in one….at least if it turns out well.

As people, we become captivated by something we can relate to, something that grabs our attention and something that moves us emotionally.

A humourous story down the pub.

A heartfelt conversation over dinner.

Someone overcoming incredible hardship.

And yet, so often, businesses end up focusing on getting our attention with big splashes, when the little drops of water could mean so much more. And when this same mentality is applied to social media or marketing; we often lose one of the most important bits.

The social bit.

AKA. The storytelling.

At the heart of the best social occasions, gatherings and campaigns, are great storytellers.

And I should know. I grew up listening to some incredible stories.

My parents would get home from their travels telling us what happened. Dinner times were riveting. Engaging. Enlightening.

At church, I’d hear preachers tell their stories. I’d always remember their personal and honest anecdotes. Their vulnerability and openness gave me permission to reflect.

At school, I was committed to making stories. Sadly, not always in the most constructive ways, as my love for practical jokes weren’t always shared by all the teachers.

I’ve found myself saying throughout my life. This will make a great story. And I’ve chased stories down, looking forward to sharing them with others.

So yesterday, on my ongoing pursuit, something struck me.

I was meeting with someone and they were telling me about their business. It’s a successful and exciting business and they had an incredible story. They provide venues and locations for blockbuster films, prestigious events and A-list photoshoots. They’ve worked on so many of the films and magazines that you and I watch and read each day. I can’t mention them yet sadly, but needless to say, they’re in the storytelling business. Quite literally.

Yet there own story hasn’t been told.

The thought of getting their story out made me excited.

But the thought of how long this has taken to happen, made me sad.

Which has led me to writing this blog post to help people join the dots. In fact, it’s leading me to writing a series of these posts. I think this issue is so important for any entrepreneur, blogger, communicator, marketing person, agency, manager, leader, trainer, teacher or entertainer. We need good storytellers.

And the beat goes on…

Helping people tell their story is one of the most precious gifts we can give each other.

I want to help you tell yours.

Grab a brew. Let’s talk.

Post 1: Do You Like Your Story

Let’s re re-wind. (When the crowd says Bo Selecta).

You may have already seen it, but if not, please watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk: ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’ – otherwise known as ‘Start With Why’ or ‘The Golden Circle.’

In it he convincingly argues that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Therefore part of the opening gambit of establishing whether you like your story, starts by asking the questions: ‘Why are you doing what you’re doing?’

He cites the example of Apple. The brand that has a mystical and magical pull to it. The business that enabled us all to be on first name terms with the founder. They wanted to change the world. They broke through in new technology. Yet at the heart of their existence, they had the wildness of Pirates. And they needed a storyteller. And our mate, Steve knew how to weave a tale.

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It’s because we believe in their Why, and over time we know the quality of their products that we buy whatever they put out. Even queuing overnight for the pleasure.

You getting some of that love in your business?

The question of ‘Why are you doing what you’re doing’ is a harder one for many.

It often raises a secondary issue. One that gnaws slightly below the surface:

a. ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this.’

b. ‘Just need some cash. But sadly, don’t really believe in what I’m doing.’

c. ‘I need to do something I feel excited about.’

Otherwise known as ‘I hate my job/business.’

And if a desire for finding work that satisfies, resonates and excites has been so deeply pushed down, it can sometimes lead to a bigger question: ‘What do I really believe in.’ After all, it’s got to be more than just the money, money, money.

Having sung that, I like Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs. Sometimes we’re in a position where we don’t have the luxury of finding deep meaning in our work. We’re in survival mode and we simply do have to pay the bills to keep the show on the road. So my aim isn’t to provide you with a rod to beat yourself. We may simply need to keep our head’s down in this season and grind out the responsibility. And that’s ok. I’m sure most of us have been there.

But what if we never move beyond that point, or we find ourselves stuck there years later. Is it worth asking a few questions then?

Questions like:

‘Are you proud of your work?’

‘Are you at peace in what you’re trying to achieve?’

‘Can you comfortably look yourself in the mirror and not be ashamed of your motives or any corners you’re cutting?’

‘What difference are you making to the lives of others?’

I still believe that in each one of us (on a deeply dormant or firmly alive basis) is a desire to change the world. Call me a dreamer or unrealistic, but I think it’s intrinsic to being human. That may not be the language we use, but I believe we want to find significance and connect with something bigger than ourselves.

And those who go on to change the world, clearly know what they believe in. They may still have questions and have learnt to dance with their shadow selves, but more often than not there’s a peaceful and determined focus.

Do we have that? Is our work rewarding? Do we work in the right place, or is time to start to initiate change?

If we’re going to start telling stories, whether they be about ourselves or about others, why not start on the right footing. Begin with liking our own story.

Naturally, there’s days when it’s drudgery and graft, and we’re not looking for some ‘work’ utopia. But are we doing what we love?

To kick us off, I’d love to know whether you like your story? Or to hear what you’re passionate about. Don’t be a stranger. Let me know what’s firing up your belly in the comments below. Feel free to link through to your site, if your passion is found there… I’d love to take a look.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Using Storytelling For A Better User Experience

  1. Hi Caleb.

    Stories are very important. I find that they are great for teaching at all levels because they capture attention and trigger emotion.

    Whether we or the reader likes our story or not, they need to know that we have one, and they too can have a story.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts through this article.

    Nathan.

    • Thanks Nathan. I fully agree that stories are powerful in teaching because of what it stirs in the listener. I always remember the stories and examples given. Whether from a Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell or Steve Jobs- when you can paint a picture with story it remains with us long after the event.

      So what’s the story behind your business support business? Looks interesting.