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Who doesn’t love a good story?! Over the past year, we’ve heard about the role that storytelling plays in social business, whether it helps connect with customers, relate to employees or otherwise promote your company in the global marketplace.

Tell Me a Story

In his book, "Lead With A Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire", Paul Smith, director of consumer and communications at The Procter & Gamble company outlines a comprehensive, yet very practical guide to telling stories in business.

What I like best about this book is that its chapters can be read in any order -- it’s not a step by step guide, but rather different ways to understand how to craft the perfect story that not only encompasses your company’s objectives, but also vision and basic stylistic elements. What I also like about the book is that Paul Smith practices what he preaches. By using stories to emphasize key points, it’s so clear why stories are so helpful in getting a point across.

Winning Hearts & Minds

But what if he used a PowerPoint presentation? So many of us still think it's the best or easiest way to educate, promote or otherwise provide information (which isn't to say that PowerPoint isn't always useless) but what if you were able to set the stage first with a story that elicited an emotional or intellectual reaction?

Why Storytelling? Paul Smith gives his top 10 reasons storytelling is a better way to lead.

Paul Smith doesn't just tell us a great story, he gets us to understand what makes a story great. Stories that showcase a company's values or describe situations in which their integrity is tested and they prevail are always welcome, but just as our experiences in social media have taught us, authenticity and transparency are key. Furthermore, your CEO can tell a great company story, but if he and the rest of the company isn't living it, sooner than later, customers will begin to tell their own story -- and chances are that's the one that's going to stick.

While stories are useful in getting people to relate to who you are, what you stand for and how you work -- it's knowing when to use them effectively that matters. No one likes a long-talker. When you want a quick, immediate answer, being subjected to a story is probably not the best tactic. Storytelling is a tool, which should be used with strategic intent just as you would any other tool in your engagement toolbox. When used successfully, it can win the hearts and minds of those you want to reach.

However, just because you have a story to tell, doesn't mean you know how to tell it in a way that works. Which is why Lead With a Story is a must read for anyone who engages with customers, stakeholders and employees.