How to become a storytelling master
In case you missed it, storytelling matters.
Storytelling used to be something parents did for children to get them to go to sleep, so why has storytelling become such an important part of startup culture today?
The answer is simple. We're all big children. We want to feel included, paid attention to, and safe. Wrapping your startup in a cosy blanket of storytelling makes your grind palatable to even the harshest critic.
At its core, storytelling is just a way to unite the following 4 key elements of your business in a bitesize piece so you don’t lose your audience along the way.
Element #1 Your Brand:
Don’t get it twisted. Your brand isn’t your logo or the colours you choose to use. Well, it is those things, but it is a whole lot more than that. Your brand is the feeling your service or product evokes in its user.
For example, Coca-Cola’s brand elements are the special red colour and the writing that is immediately recognisable as the “coke font”. But it is also the feeling that you are buying into something timeless, classic. Something that is an integral part of the western tradition and lexicon.
Element #2 Your Message:
Messages aren’t just for charities. We live in a generation that craves authenticity and your message is the way you put that across to your audience.
The tricky thing is, gone are the days where you can say, “every child deserves an education” and be done with it. Now your audience want to know, why you think every child deserves an education.
To you it may seem like a no brainer, and it is. But for someone to invest in your business, whether as an investor or a customer, they need to know that you have a much more solid reason than “I'm a good person” for wanting to be the one that brings education to children across the world.
A previous client of mine had a similar problem. She just didn’t understand why it needed to be more complicated than “every child deserves an education.”
Don’t think of it as adding a complication, think of it as expanding by putting in some heart.
Everyone (with sense) thinks children should be educated, but not all of them have chosen to run a business based on that idea. Why did you?
We know this can be difficult. That’s why we put together a worksheet that’ll help.
Its a list of probing questions that will get you on your way to building your message.
Break it down and put it together better than before.
This is going to be really useful if you’re trying to get featured in the press.
Element #3 Your Vision:
I said we live in a generation that craves authenticity, and while that may be tinged with cynicism, we undoubtedly live in one of the most optimistic generations in recent history. How that happened is debatable.
Some think the Kardashians model of reality TV led the way and other think the rise of social media has had a massive effect on people’s perceptions of reality and how easy it is to “make it”. Whatever the case may be, we’re going to use it to our advantage!
If people are looking for a better world, let’s give it to them.
When we’re telling people our vision, we aren’t beholden to many rules (except physics, and that’s a maybe). Don’t think about probabilities, think of the possibilities.
One of my favourite musicals is Annie. I love the zero-to-hero aspect of it.
That little girl went from “it’s a hard knock life” to literally being flown around in the President’s personal helicopter in a matter of days. That’s the kind of vision we’re looking for; a glow-up is so incredible that it can’t be ignored.
Your vision should be something so inherently bombastic that your audience will be on the edge of their seats to hear how you’re going to make it happen. More importantly, when coupled with your message, your audience will truly believe that you won’t quit until your vision becomes their reality.
That’s 5 emails over 5 days.
You’ll get a lesson each day that will help you break down the reality and start seeing the vision.
Element #4 Your Mission:
Your vision and your mission go together like peanut butter and jelly, like beans on toast, or like Agege bread and akara. To things that are seemingly opposites, yet together make a scrumptious package. (I haven’t had lunch yet, can you tell?)
Your mission is the answer to the question; “how are you going to get us there?” Or, “what are you doing right now to make that vision a reality?” This can be tricky.
What I've found, more times than I care to count, is that the mission gets turned into a realistic, less optimistic version of the vision.
That doesn’t work.
You’ve built up your audience so high only to drag them back down to Earth.
How often do you fly? I love flying, I enjoy airports, seeing the cabin crew at work, I even like those little ear plugs and sleep masks they gift you. My favourite part though, has to be the pilot’s flight path announcements.
The announcement doesn’t just tell you the destination, but it tells you the wonderful places you are going to fly over as you go on your journey. It tells you what the expected time will be, what the weather is going to be and it ends with a wish that you enjoy your flight and your time at your chosen destination.
If you think about it, that announcement has all the elements of a well crafted mission statement. You are taking your audience on a journey to your vision.
For example, one version of our mission is to “gather, equip and empower people around the world who are passionate about Africa, to start and sustain businesses that not only contribute to the development of African communities, but also turn a profit and create well-paying jobs.”
If you break it down, you can see the destination as well as the achievements we’ve got planned along the way. You should also see that we understand the reason our vision is not a reality today and how we think we can keep it going once we’ve reached our destintion.
So are you ready to write a mission statement that actually does what it is meant to?
If you need a little help, check out our Mission statement guide.
The doc helps you break down your mission statement according to your audience!
You’re going to need this if you’re networking or pitching anytime soon.
Storytelling is essentially a mini version of all that, and the “cosy blanket” psychology I mentioned earlier.
Storytelling is now one of the most important skills for startup founders to master in our current branding, fundraising and marketing climate.
The point is, when you know your business, you are running it effectively, and you know how to use storytelling to pull your audience in, there is no stopping you!
Now we’ve laid the foundation, in this post, we are going to cover 3 simple steps to build your story and convince anyone that you are the best thing that’s happened since Trump took office.
#1 make it make sense to them
I’m going to break the essence of this first step down for you.
You have to make it. It must be original. You can’t steal your story from another business, because it becomes very obvious, very quickly that you don’t have a personal connection to the story you’re telling.
It has to make sense. Sounds like a no brainer, but you’ll be shocked at how often common sense does not prevail when startups start to create and describe their business model.
When you’re writing your story, you have to have the audience in mind. I often suggest to clients that the minimum to have in your arsenal is three. They will all have the same key elements, but they might be spun slightly differently. Remember I said that was only one version of our mission statement; we have quite a few.
Having different versions empowers you to change the tone of your story according to the audience you are speaking to. This is really helpful if you are the type of person that freezes when you have to think on your feet.
So put this step to work and you’re on your way to an irresistable cosy blanket formula.
#2 share your passion
This is important. I’ve mentioned it a few times in this post, so you know it counts.
When your audience is choosing whether or not to support you, something that can be an emotonal as well as financial sacrifice on their part, they need to know you have the heart to stick it out until the end.
So, where is your passion in this business? What is going to keep you going when the world says, "No, we don’t want that one. Next!”
There are things I absolutely hate with a passion. The narrative around Africa is one of them. I absolutely despise what it makes of us as a people, as a culture, as independent, thriving human beings who are the most entrepreneurial people on the planet! #FactsOnly #StatsOnly Seriously. Google it.
I get so passionate when I’m talking about the vision and the mission, because I’m so personally irritated and devastated by how that narrative minimises our continent. That’s why I’m never going to quit. I’m going to keep going no matter who says “NO!”
*** takes a sip of water***
What drives you? What makes you mad?
Why are you going to be here in 20 years when all your competitors have gotten tired and quit because this is way too hard?
Make that passion the core of your story and you will attract people that get it.
#3 stand tall in your lane
I say this quite often, so forgive me if you’ve heard it before.
Most founders have no idea just how special they are, and that’s often their downfall.
Knowing your lane has an effect on every aspect of your business, from your branding, to your marketing, pitching and so on.
But we’re talking about storytelling.
You should know that there’s something unique about you that makes you the perfect person to do this.
Storytelling is a matter of confidence as much as it is a matter of content. You’ve got to unapologetically show your audience that you’ve got what it takes to lead this business to glory.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. You’ve got your own strengths. Put them to work. When it comes to your weaknesses, find ways to overcome them so that you can walk into any meeting, pitch event or networking situation with your confidence intact.
For example, I have a lot of clients who hate pitching and networking. Their excuse is, “I’m an introvert.” That used to be my excuse too, until I realised my unwillingness to step out of my comfort zone was holding me back. Now, I’m a public speaker. All it takes is practice.
That’s all folks.
Thanks for reading,