3 Steps for Telling a Successful Story

All my life, I've loved to tell stories. But here's the thing: until recently, I was never any good at it.

I would always start off with, "oh my gosh, something happened today I have to tell you about!" I'd get my audience (usually my mom or my boyfriend) all excited. They'd sit down and eagerly wait for me to tell them the thing.

You see, I was always good at the hook.

But then I'd launch into a long narrative with twists, turns, and tangents like an intersection with 7.5 different directions. I'd go down one road telling half a story before realizing I went off on a tangent, start over again, and find myself down another road.

It wasn't long before I saw eyes glazed over and confused head-tilts which I don't blame at all. My stories were terrible. And the ending was often nowhere near as exciting as my hook.

Fortunately, I've been taking a lot of time learning the ins and outs of storytelling and working to improve my skills every day. I put so much time and effort into it because storytelling isn't just about keeping your mom awake when telling her about your day, it can also be used to help convince people to take a desired action.

The problem is, you're not going to be able to get anyone to take an action if your story isn't clear and intentional. There's a simple structure that will help every story you tell - whether it's in a blog post, on your service page, or to your mother - make a landing and be successful.

Step 1: Start with a hook

Think about the first chapter of your favorite book or the pilot episode of your favorite TV series. What happened? How did they hook you to stay interested enough to read or watch more?

Your story's hook is what gets your audience to listen to what you have to say. This can be done with a quote, a shocking statistic, a question, or an explanation of their challenge.

For example, on your services page, you might start off by explaining the challenge your ideal customer is going through. If you're an event planner, you could write about how it's easy to get unorganized and make mistakes throughout the process. You can also explain the consequences of something as simple as even ordering the wrong type of flowers.

The key is to make your hook relatable by finding out what intrigues your audience and including that element in every story you write.

Step 2: Add emotions

Over the course of history, scientists thought humans were more likely to make their decisions based on facts and figures. That's why there are so many of those damn boring powerpoints floating around full of numbers we can barely wrap out head around!

Yet, recent studies have shown humans are actually more likely to make their decision based on emotion. That's why it's crucial to emphasize your hook by bringing emotion into it. Once you have the story setup, use the body portion to emphasize the fear, frustration, or excitement surrounding your customer's primary challenge.

Related Article: How Storytelling Connects Small Businesses with People

Using the event planner example, imagine how frustrated your customers would feel if they spent hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on the wrong flowers. Not only do they have to find a way to return them, but they also need to get the right flowers in time for the upcoming event.

Emphasizing this will connect their brains to the emotional side of this challenge, making them more willing to find a solution to it (i.e. you!).

Step 3: Tie it all together

Now that you have your audience hooked and emotional, they're ready to do something about it. This is where you tie it all together and tell them exactly what they should do next.

The ending of your story should be a clear call-to-action that answers the question, "now what?" It should be specific to both the hook and the emotion and give them a specific solution with clear steps to get there.

Related Article: Storytelling is the New Advertising

As an event planner, you could say something along the lines of, "never order the wrong flowers again - fill out the form below to find out how you can work with me to make all your events go off without a hitch."

Case Study: Bringing it All Together

Steve Jobs used this exact strategy when he announced the iPhone in 2007 at a keynote which is now known as one of the most famous business presentations in the world. 

Jobs spends the first three minutes of his presentation setting up his story. He explains a brief history of Apple and his excitement to release three new products. Then, he turns the tables by announcing that it's one single product: the iPhone.

He then launches into his explanation of the iPhone by showing a classic iPod and joking, "here it is." Everyone laughs. He's just introduced humor into his presentation and everybody is still engaged. They're laughing, they're curious, they want to know more.

He brings in more emotion by diving into the problem with "smartphones" of that era. He brings in frustration and ties the audience's knowledge of the term into what they already know - the Moto Q, BlackBerry, Palm Treo, and Nokia E62 of that time.

Related Article: Using the Power of Story to Stand Out

Throughout the rest of the video, Jobs continues to add emotion and break expectations of this new product, explaining precisely how it solves every one of the problems he introduced earlier on.

Although we can't watch the end of the presentation in this video, it always ends with a line out the door of every Apple store as soon as a new product launches. And that's the magic of Apple's storytelling.

--

Whether you’re crafting an Instagram caption, a Facebook ad, or reworking your services page, this method is how storytellers like Steve Jobs have gotten people to take action.

However, you can't do this until you have a basic understanding of what your brand story is and what problem you solve for your audience. Download this free brand story worksheet to discover your brand's unique story before you begin telling it to the world.