I’m a sucker for a good story. One that surprises me. That makes me think and feel. That inspires and motivates. That sticks. “This Is Us,” NBC’s hit drama, is the epitome of a good story. Every episode moves me and millions of others. (Last season, I ugly cried every week; I’ve already stocked up on tissues for this season.) And they do so in a way that is satisfying, not draining. As a business writer, that’s my goal too – not to cause tears, but to pull in my audience, leave a memorable impression and keep them coming back for more. After all, we seldom remember the last press release we read, but we almost always remember a good brand story.We seldom remember the last press release we read, but we almost always remember a good brand story.Click To Tweet
More than ever, brands need to tell good stories. Here are a few of the storytelling “lessons” I’ve taken from the pages of the “This Is Us” script that can also apply to business writing and how to create a brand story.
How to Create a Brand Story:
Start in the middle.
Often, we give way too much detail upfront, starting our story in chronological order and putting our audience to sleep before getting to the “ah-ha” moment.
From the very first episode of “This Is Us,” when it took a whole hour for viewers to realize that the babies delivered to Jack and Rebecca Pearson in the 1970s were the same people we were seeing as adults in the present, the show manages to seamlessly connect the timelines, helping us easily navigate the twists and layers that keep us coming back for me.
So, take a risk and start in the middle, where things are exciting. It’s much more interesting to slowly peel the layers of the onion.
Create an emotional connection.
If your audience can identify with a character – her dreams, habits, choices, triumphs – they’re much more likely to become emotionally vested in the story you’re telling. You want them to connect on an emotional level; they should be able to empathize, or better yet, see themselves in the story.
“This Is Us” makes us care deeply about the members of the Pearson family. Many may watch each week to get our “whats?” and “whys?” answered, but we’re also watching because we’re invested in these people’s lives.
Include dialogue and visual descriptions to help your audience feel like they’re not just reading your story, but experiencing it.
Don’t rush the ending.
Let’s be honest. Life – personal and professional – is full of challenges. Don’t steer away from them; center on them. It makes your story compelling, but it also makes it real. Eventually, you’ll need to introduce resolutions, but don’t be in a hurry to get to them.
“This Is Us” focuses on multiple storylines that aren’t tied to any one “mystery” – i.e., Jack’s death. Like the heated discussions between Randall and Beth about adopting a child. Or the inadequacy Kate still feels when she’s in her mother’s presence. These are relatable issues. And even though we may get impatient about what the show is not telling us, we don’t mind as much because we’re given other intriguing challenges to engage with and consider.
Curiosity can be a powerful emotion. Stir it up.
Here are 10 other business writing techniques on how to create a brand story.
- Entice your readers with a tale. Don’t bore them with acronyms, data and statistics.
- Avoid jargon. You and your colleagues may understand what you are saying, but you can’t be certain anyone else does.
- Invite your customers into your world. Be careful not to tell us what you think. Rather show us what happened.
- Create a narrative. Don’t just write down words. This means you need a story with characters, and a beginning, middle and end.
- Share anecdotes. Tell your readers about the things that make your brand human.
- Create heroes for us to identify with. Tell us about specific people and how they won the day.
- Entertain, don’t sell. When you’re promoting your business in a story, never sell anything. The point of the story is to draw people in so that they ask about your product.
- Keep things interesting. Try to leave out the parts readers might skip. Only keep the important bits in your story.
- Make us uncomfortable. Show us the obstacles and then reveal the solution. Suspense makes us want to find out how it ends.
- Keep it real. People can tell when you’re making it up.
Your brand story is a vital element of your communications strategy. Need advice on how to create a brand strategy? Need help defining your brand voice or developing your narrative? Consider a storytelling workshop.