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September 14, 2023

How to Grow Better Business Stories

AI image generated by Freepik

I've told a lot of stories over many years. Here's how I make sure they'll work consistently well for my audiences & my companies.

1. Be Aligned.

Each business story must be aligned across the axes of brand and messaging, and purpose and function.

Brand and messaging are pre-defined guardrails that keep your content on target for your company. They should include the "voice" of your brand, stylebook guidelines, and specific vocabulary decisions. Messaging should fit the brand voice, be contextual to its audiences, and articulate the use cases and value of the offering.

Purpose and function refer to the business purpose the story is meant to fulfill: is it a demand-oriented message, or for awareness purposes? And function refers to the form that particular story will take: social content, web copy, white paper, search engine, etc. Each form contains its own rules for proper and optimal usage.

2. Be Collaborative.

The best ideas in business storytelling aren't created by a lone writer siting for long hours in a tatty cubicle beneath flickering fluorescent lights. They're a team effort. The game begins when the writer talks, reads, and researches the topic until there's enough source material. Then, through dialogs with subject matter experts, the source material is shaped until a first draft of the story can be created. That story is then socialized, vetted, and tested through numerous dialogs and rounds of formal revision. Depending on the prevailing rules, there may then need to be rounds of approval required, including executives and Legal review. Finally, the finished story -- a polished and properly aligned (see #1) revision is ready for distribution.

3. Don't Write Poetry.

Fit for purpose is the goal of every business storyteller: not the creation of a timeless work of art. We may feel inspiration as we write, we may experience those magical moments when a business story comes alive at our fingertips. But our goal is to create a story that meets its purpose.

Is your goal to convey enough information of value to entice audience members to show interest in an upcoming webinar. Tell that story -- and move on.

Listen. If you're a writer, I know you. I know with each new project you'll be driven to continue shaping, polishing, and reworking each piece because at every stroke of a key, you can feel it getting closer to something more wonderful.

Stop it. And read rule #4 below.

4. Be On Time & Within Budget.

Every story is constrained by resources: the time you have in which to create the story, and the budget available (for example, the cost of your time, the time invested by your subject matter experts and reviewers, plus any external costs such as design or agency fees).

Business stories are often for use within a surrounding framework, such as a demand generation campaign or marketing event, and that framework almost certainly has a calendar and budget attached.

5. Don't Fire And Forget.

Stories are too valuable to be abandoned. Listen to your audience reception. Take heed of what they tell you, of how they respond. And listen to your own internal voice as it whispers new ideas to try. To paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien, a good story grows in the telling. Nurture it and let it grow.

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