typewriter storytelling

Why Storytelling Should Be an Integral Part of Your Content Creation

In 2010 when Brandon Stanton created Humans of New York, a storytelling social media page, he had one goal: to take 10,000 photos of ordinary New Yorkers and plot them on a map of the city.

book storytelling
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

His photography blog quickly changed, however, when he began to have actual conversations with his subjects.

At first, Stanton included some quotes from those conversations. He later realized that each of the subjects he chose had an actual story to tell.

That’s when his Facebook following began to grow exponentially.

Today the Humans of New York Facebook page has over 18 million likes and more than 17 million followers. His social media followers total beyond 25 million.

The page not only includes Stanton’s photos but also a video series that features people from “all walks of life that tell stories of life, love, and everything else in between.”

While he is best known for taking photos in New York, he has also taken his talent for interviewing and photography abroad.

In 2012, Stanton visited Iran and compiled a range of images from that country.

Grab Attention with Storytelling

What is it about a story that keeps us riveted to our seats? Is it the plot, the characters or the setting?

Of course, it could be any one of these components or indeed all three, but the point is that stories, if told in a compelling fashion, always catch our attention.

city near river storytellingAirbnb’s website is a good example of storytelling in action. Recently I stumbled upon the company’s “Stories from the Airbnb Community,” a group of compelling short features (some in video, some in written form) that show how Airbnb has impacted the lives of people across the world.

Take a look at this compelling story about Tessa, who rents out her London home as an Airbnb. Tessa had once been a vibrant professional but when struck with Myalgia Encephalopathy, she was unable to work.

Converting her home to an Airbnb helped turn her life around.

Highlighting a Product

No surprise that Google has also heavily invested in stories to reiterate the importance of its own products.

“Search On” is a documentary series that it produces to do just that. Take this episode, for example, where we see Anne-Christine Hertz, a biomechanical engineer, try out her new invention called BikeAround to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in Sweden.

The prototype, which works hand-in-hand with Google’s Street View, is a way to help patients preserve their old memories by taking them on a virtual ride through the places of their childhood.

Focus on Employees

Here in Westchester County, there is one company I know of that’s doing a good job of storytelling.

Greyston Bakery, located in Yonkers, is known for its Open Hiring™ philosophy. Since its founding in 1982, the bakery has hired its entire bakery production staff without judgment.

The company says it has created opportunities for people who may have otherwise been excluded from the workforce.

They include certain people of color, faith, and sexual orientation, as well as immigrants, refugees, the poor and the once incarcerated.

At Greyston, the focus is on the person, not on the requirements that are needed to do a particular job.

It is also about the unique chance that the company provides to its potential employees and the belief that it has in each and every one of them.

That message is evident in the Stories section of the Greyston Bakery website.

This year, Greyston initiated a training program that hopes to inspire other companies to establish their own open hiring programs.

Providing Inspiration

Stories are really how we learn best.

No matter the number of numbers, facts, and details that are being thrown at us, if there’s a story that can glue it all together, it seems to stick.

That’s what happened in the West of Ireland in 2016 when Funeral Director David McGowan made the daring decision to transport a defunct Boeing 767 on a barge from Shannon Airport to Enniscrone, County Sligo.

plane on truck storytelling
The plane that will eventually become part of the Quirky Nights Glamping Village in Co. Sligo, Ireland. Photo: Magnumlady.com.

The idea came about after McGowan purchased the old Russian plane for use in a new business venture called the Quirky Nights Glamping Village.

Unable to transport it by road, his only alternative was to use the high seas.

McGowan made the shrewd decision to highlight the plane’s journey on social media but also to reach out to several media outlets, including the Irish radio station, Today FM, which is broadcast throughout Ireland, as well as several national newspapers and TV.

The radio station and others covered the journey gavel by gavel, and the event itself galvanized a nation that was looking for inspiration.

The Medium Doesn’t Matter

Telling a story through a film is obviously different from telling a story on a blog, in an e-book or even a traditional book.

While the different types of media make the storytelling a different experience, in the end, it’s all about how the story is told, not the medium through which it is told.

Just as everyone has a story to tell, every business also has a story to tell. It doesn’t have to necessarily highlight the success of a product or a service, at least not at first.

Perhaps telling a story about yourself or your employees and how you play an integral part in the development of your business is all it takes to get the ball rolling.

Have you incorporated storytelling into your marketing lately? Let me know in the comments below.  And don’t forget to sign up for my free e-newsletter.


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