Let us start by taking a look at what makes an inspiring story different from an ordinary story.
How to make stories inspirational?
Fundamentally what inspires us in individuals is success, passion, victory against odds, an act of kindness and so on. What makes an organisation inspiring is thought leadership, a culture of innovation, sincere acts of corporate social responsibility, treating customers as heroes, winning against bigger competitors (David vs Goliath) and so on.
In brief, we can say that actions / stories of positivity, courage or compassion, be it of individuals or organisations inspire us. Here are 10 techniques to help you create inspiring stories based on true incidents.
Providing Role Models
A start up which grew into a large organisation by using online and viral marketing is certainly a role model for other start ups. BlendTec of US and Your Story of India are good examples of fast track growth. An organisation which wants to create a culture of equal opportunity employer needs to share success stories of women, physically challenged and expatriates, which demonstrate that it walks the talk.
Every reader is looking for a role model who has successfully won over similar challenges. For example if you are a woman entrepreneur, you feel most inspired by the stories of other (successful) women entrepreneurs.
Innovation and Thought leadership
Google and 3M are great examples of cultures which truly encourage innovation. Google allows some of its employees to dedicate 25 % of their time on projects of their choice. Some of the greatest Google products have been created during this passion time. Presenting such a story to the world establishes the reputation of Google as a thought leader in the industry and at the same time, it helps attract the best talent.
Great employer branding actually needs great brand storytelling. A whole new field of employer branding has come up to suitably brand the organisation in employees’ eyes.
High energy words, pictures and sounds
Using high energy words and sounds like WOW, amazing etc can energize the reader. Words carry our energy and positive words can carry immense energy. Pictures of people in action can also be inspiring if the right quotation or context is added to them.
The colors used in the visual can also play an important role as colors are associated with specific traits (though it may vary according to cultures).
Victory against odds
A story with a protagonist who has won against odds, inspires the reader also to win against odds.Rohit Singh is a good example of an IT entrepreneur who came from a small town to Delhi and not only co-founded a successful software testing company but has received many prestigious awards in a short period of time. (11th rank in Deloitte in Fastest 50 technology companies of India in 2013 and by Red Herring for Top 100 Asia in 2014)
One of my favorite quotes (Henry Ford) is, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see, when you take your eyes off your goal.”
Asking readers to take action
The storyteller can even ask the reader directly to act like the hero of the story, or ask a question or provoke a response. For example, many of my blog posts end with, “So are you ready with your inspiring story?” I prefer to inspire rather than provoke, yet I like putting the reader in an introspection mode, which may lead to action later on.
Forming an emotional connect by wearing the reader’s shoes
Brand Storytelling is usually a process of co-creation with customer. Empathy becomes very crucial, as the storyteller must wear the shoes of the protagonist to create a touching story.
It is important to create mindful content and engage passionately with your audience. Mindful content (audience centric) adds value to people’s lives by motivating, or helping them resolve their current life challenges. Passionate engagement also helps in forming a deeper bond by continuing the conversation and by suggesting customized solutions while answering comments.
In case of a written story, the storyteller interacts with the readers by answering their comments. When sharing a story orally, the storyteller’s enthusiasm while narrating the story can add to the inspiration. A two way communication converts social media into social networking and can be helpful in relationship building and relationship management.
In case of customer complaints, prompt action can help in stopping the creation of a whole story around the complaint. If customer’s anger is treated with indifference by the organisation, the customer expresses his / her anger. And then sometimes more anger is added to the extent that the whole anger goes viral. This is exactly what happened when Dave Caroll expressed his anger with United Airlines in his video, “United Breaks Guitars” and many customers with frustrating experiences with United happily joined in.
Understanding the uniqueness of the social media platform
It is important to understand the uniqueness of each social media platform. After all telling an inspiring story in 140 characters on Twitter is a bigger challenge than doing it in a 500 word blog post.
Facebook has an informal tone to it, while Linkedin has a formal tone. Pinterest and Facebook photo albums are powerful mediums for visual storytelling. Youtube and Vimeo are the most popular sites for video storytelling. Sometimes when people stories are integrated with organisation stories, one also needs to decide whether the focus will be on the entrepreneur / team or the organisation. The paradox is that while organisations are usually interested in organisation branding, people are more interested in reading people stories.
Answer your customer’s question with a story
A friend shared a powerful approach with me called STAR. He noted, “If you’re selling to a prospect and she comes up with a question, narrate a story of a past experience to him instead of bragging about the special features of your products/services. That story will be far more effective then pointing out advantages.
STAR is a powerful method for storytelling (S for Situation, T for Task, A for Action & R for Result). Explain the Situation you faced and describe the Task in hand. Subsequently you need to narrate what Action you took to accomplish the Task and finally tell the Result. He will quickly relate to the story & believe in you. And belief in you will eventually put belief in your product/service.” The story may inspire the prospect to take a similar action.
Bringing Social Change against heavy odds
We have scores of stories of social changemakers and social entrepreneurs who have risked their lives to bring change to society. A recent example is Kailash Satyarthi who was awarded a Nobel Peace prize for his work related to abolition of child labour.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a great opportunity to tell meaningful stories. Yet creating stories requires organisations to closely work with NGOs for social betterment and not just donate money. Successful model villages can inspire many villages to become models too. As Dr Sushi Singh, CSR expert and CEO, Educomp Foundation says, “CSR also means Caring for Society Responsibly”.
A Note for the Inspiration Seeker
If you are looking for inspiration, you need to pay attention to what inspires you. Inspiration comes from the words “in spirit” or your inner voice. Listen to it, believe it and act on it.
I firmly believe, “When you share inspiring success stories, you get a great brand as a gift from the Universe.” You must start with a genuine intent to inspire your audience and good reputation will follow you like a shadow.
To conclude, I would like to say, “Inspiring leaders and organisations forge their own authentic path and demonstrate exemplary guts, commitment, and perseverance. They are generous and derive an enormous sense of satisfaction by helping other people, or organizations grow. Last but not the least, since they have an exciting story to tell, they end up becoming riveting storytellers.”