Who better to talk about the power of storytelling than someone in the entertainment industry? That’s exactly what Peter Guber, chief executive officer of Mandalay Entertainment Group and co-owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors did. His most recent book, Tell to Win, isn’t new — it was published in 2011, but it came across my desk at a peculiar moment.
The Story is Everything
Senator Inouye of Hawaii had recently died and I was watching President Obama eulogize him on television. If you remember, the President received great praise and criticism for his speech, which wove a story about the first time he recognized Inouye as a powerful leader, during a family vacation. What I remember is that I was captivated by the story he told and how it taught me about Senator’s Inouye’s life and career indirectly, but in a way that brought context and humanity.
In Guber’s book, the story is everything, and he tells a lot of them throughout the book. The point is that through his stories, personal and professional guffaws and flourishes, Peter Guber isn’t just some motivational speaker with polished anecdotes — he’s a recognizable character. He has goals and ambitions and like most of us, relies on convincing other people to help him make it happen.
It isn’t that you need to tell a story to answer every question or as an attempt to relate to your boss. Rather, it’s a way to help you connect with others, or to transport your audience emotionally, as Guber describes it.
The emotional transportation has four components:
- Sympathetic and Recognizable Characters
- What Happens Next style drama
- A Moment of Truth
- The Me-to-We Factor
These qualities are not surprising — in fact, it's what we love about a good story. So why is that we are all such in a rush to get to the point? Blame in on 140 characters or our "got to have it" culture, but the truth is most of us fail to tell captivating stories because we start to doubt ourselves and our stories. We question their value or relevance.
The Story is Just the Beginning
Yet, if you think about it we're continually finding value in other people's stories.
Think about TED talks. They are a huge success because people are able to effectively tell a story that gets us to relate to much bigger concept. We start to care about issues that we may have otherwise ignored because a story helped us relate.
Jerry Seinfeld recently started a web series called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee that features intimate and insightful conversations with comedy legends. It's not done in the traditional interviewer set up - but in a car and in a coffee shop. It's brilliant and addictive and I've probably learned more about these characters than I would in a Barbara Walters special.
It isn't that asking questions isn't an effective way to get to know someone, but there's probably a reason why we still get nervous during job interviews.
Which gets us back to Tell to Win. The key to telling a story that resonates with listeners is to understand what the audience values. In order to know what they care about most, you have to listen to what they're saying (and what they're not saying). Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the customer experience.
To succeed at relating to customers, authenticity reigns. Customers just want to the truth so they can make an informed decision. They don't like to be lied to and neither do you. (Case in point: the unraveling drama behind the Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season).
Storytelling isn't just good content marketing, it's good for business. Guber says that "if your story truly excites you, and you let that excitement show, it will resonate with your audience."