Guest Post by Kristin Piombino
Storytelling is a hot topic in the communications industry these days. Stories connect people to each other and to their organizations. They humanize giant corporations and make brands relatable to customers.
But while stories can work magic for corporate communicators, writing a good story isn’t easy. If you’ve ever stared helplessly at a blank Word document, you know what I’m talking about. It’s frustrating when you know what you want to say, but you can’t seem to conjure the right words.
Thankfully, there are resources that can make the process a little easier to make you a great storyteller. Give them a try.
1. “Story” by Robert McKee
Before you put pen to paper (or your fingers to a keyboard), you have to understand what makes a story successful. Find out in Robert McKee’s book “Story.” McKee is a creative writing instructor who leads screenwriting workshops for some of the best writers in Hollywood, including Peter Jackson and the writers at Pixar. “Story” reveals the formula behind Hollywood’s greatest masterpieces so you can learn to write your own””or at least bring the magic behind films like “Casablanca” to your corporate writing.
A few years ago, Emma Coats, a Pixar story artist, revealed 22 rules the animation studio follows to consistently create unforgettable stories. With tips like “Discount the first thing that comes to mind””and the second, third, fourth and fifth. Get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself,” you’ll be breaking out of ruts and livening up your writing in no time.
3. “642 Things to Write About” by San Francisco Writers’ Grotto
Once you understand the fundamentals of story writing, you have to actually start writing. As any writer can attest, this is often the hardest part of the storytelling process. To get your creative juices flowing, try answering a few writing prompts from “642 Things to Write About,” a collection of fun and playful writing exercises. With prompts like “Describe a sneeze,” “Write a bucket list for your favorite superhero” and “What is the sound of silence, and when did you last hear it?” your mind will loosen up and the words will start flowing.
4. TED talks
Have you hit a wall in your writing? Do you need inspiration or a fresh angle? Get some help from the experts; check out some TED talks about storytelling. Two of my favorites are “The Clues to a Great Story” by Andrew Stanton (the writer behind the three “Toy Story” movies and director of “WALL-E”) and “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction writer and short-story writer).
In his talk, Stanton explains the science of storytelling, but he emphasizes the importance of invoking wonder and crafting stories with heart. This talk will inspire you and motivate you to break through creative barriers. In “The Danger of a Single Story,” Adichie explains that there are several stories hidden within every situation, and that it’s important to explore all of them to truly understand what happened.
Apply this to your writing by examining situations from every angle to uncover the most significant, relevant stories for your audience.
Think about the last time you listened to a stand-up comedian. There’s a good chance he used stories to lead into most of his jokes. Comedians know stories capture attention and build up to the punch line. They also know their stories must be short and relatable to keep the audience engaged. Listen to your favorite comedian and note how he structures his tales. Try applying his formula to your work.
6. Other organizations
Who better to learn corporate storytelling from than organizations already doing it well? Coca-Cola is an excellent example of an organization practicing brand journalism well. On its Coca-Cola Journey site, the beverage maker mixes stories about its history and newest products with the latest sports, sustainability, culture and music news. Together these seemingly disparate topics work together to tell the company’s story.
If you want to use storytelling for internal communications, read about how Zappos motivates its employees to tell the company’s stories. If you work for a health care organization, check out the Cleveland Clinic, Cape Cod Clinic and Kaiser Permanente brand journalism sites.
What resources do you turn to for storytelling advice and inspiration? Please share in the comments below.