The Best Story Always Wins

March 11, 2013

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Eric Hinson


This post is a joint effort between Eric Hinson and Emerging Ideas (@emergingideas). Tim Bickers and Tommy Deuschle are the co-founders of Emerging Ideas, which incubates and builds bright entrepreneurs and their ideas in the USA and Southern Africa. To learn more, watch their video below.

At Explainify, we’re committed to telling the best story, and we have a big vision for that. Whether it’s a bootstrapped startup or a Fortune 100 company, we know there’s a great story in there somewhere, and we want to extract it and motivate the world with it. Now, let me introduce you to some amazing storytelling partners of ours, Emerging Ideas, an organization committed to telling the best stories in Africa. We partnered together to tell a true story that sheds light on some opportunities happening in Zimbabwe.

Stories are the way we’ve all learned and connected to ideas from a very young age. Almost everyone on the planet grew up listening to stories. Story defined us, it was our form of entertainment. It made us love Superman and hate dragons. Without stories, there would be no place for GI Joes, and we’d be playing with wooden blocks instead of awesome action figures. Our favorite times growing up often centered around story time, and that hasn’t really changed.

Zimbabwe gets a lot of negative publicity. Yet one good story can make a big difference in how the world sees you, and can change the perception of investors and companies interested in sub-Saharan Africa:

Society has seen enough whitepapers, long business plans, high-degree Linkedin pages and MBA students. There’s a better way to get people interested in you: tell your story and not your profession. Spend your life crafting it. The story has to be the original, authentic you, because everyone’s story is different. A monotonous or invaluable story will be lost in the abyss of “never told.”

Together, we’d like to share with you four actionable steps you can take to craft your best story.

1. Weave surprise into your story.

I’ve got a toddler at home. I used to tell my son stories that made no sense, back when he couldn’t comprehend what was going on. Then he got older and more savvy, and if my story was nonsense, he’d leave. He didn’t want to hear something that wasn’t interesting. And what made a story interesting was surprises.

The world is filled with facts and pitches. The storytellers win hands down over them all. Storytelling gives deeper meaning, a sense of entertainment, and it also makes you original.

2. Get your audience involved.

When I first started a TV production company, we would go into pitches and I’d have one of my team members dress up as Winnie the Pooh or Batman. As soon as we walked into the office of our potential clients, pens dropped, people poked their heads around corners and everyone smiled. Before we talked about anything else, we told a story: “Hi, sir, nice to meet you. Pooh Bear here has retired and wanted to come with us today to tell you about how TV changed his life. You see, before Winnie the Pooh was produced, he used to wander around the Hundred Acre Wood, and people kind of thought he was scary. When Winnie eventually went on TV, his true colors showed, and now he’s loved by every kid in the world. He’s here to tell you that by getting you on TV, people will experience the real you as an organization.” Our guy in the Winnie the Pooh outfit would then give a thumbs up.

We did this on our video for Truckily, a food truck locator app. To begin the video we simply asked the viewer the question, “What starts with an F and ends with a U-C-K?” and apparently minds wandered. (answer: “Food Truck”). Catching viewer attention early on in the video has been extremely beneficial for them. People remember the video and the brand and have signed up because of that. They even quote our joke.

3. Focus on experience and fun, not price.

In our previous pitch example, the focus wasn’t on how much we would charge, but on telling the story of TV in our own way. We focused on relaying the fact that “no one knows you, but we’d like to introduce you to someone who was once in your shoes” (enter Pooh Bear). By the end of our pitch, the presence of Pooh Bear (or Batman) became a story for everyone in the office and broke up the monotony of paper pushing and desk time in the workday.

“You’ve got to break up the monotony. You’ve got to do something other than the status quo. If you’re trying to strike an emotion, be adventurous. Be bold. Be daring. Be offensive.”

The pitch became an office experience, and price became a side conversation. Go ahead and be creative, there’s no reason that your face to face meetings can’t be as fun as the videos you make.

Speaking of videos, it takes a lot of hours to craft a great story from concept to delivery. Case in point, you have dozens of moving parts (meetings, creative briefs, brainstorming, scriptwriting, sketches, storyboards, styleframes, voiceover, animation, sound effects, music, and so on). At the end of the day, most clients care most about how well you tell their story and whether you made it relevant, fun, and entertaining to their viewers.

When you make price the focus of the initial conversation with your clients (whether it’s an internal or external client), you’re exalting the money over the story. Getting paid is critical to staying in business, but if money is your main motivation for making videos, then your willingness to go the extra mile to tell the best story may be compromised along the way. The same is true for internal video projects.

You’ve got to break up the monotony. You’ve got to do something other than the status quo. If you’re trying to strike an emotion, be adventurous. Be bold. Be daring. Be offensive. Whatever it takes, you have to hit an emotion hard to connect your audience to what you’re telling them. Get your viewer to relate; help facilitate empathy. Start by introducing a problem your viewers are currently facing. From the very beginning, show them relevance.

The best story wins and the money comes in second place.

4. Practice your pitch.

Finding your best story takes some creative work, but when it’s found it you should have different versions that you can tell in different time frames: 90 seconds, 10 minutes, and 1 hour.

Many companies, brands, and people completely botch this. Their story isn’t ready for the prime time spotlight, and when it comes to telling your story, you never know who you’ll run into. That’s why telling your story through video is so compelling: it’s always there, and consistent for sharing (on your site, in a meeting, before a pitch, or even at a tradeshow).

“Take your business to the next level by implementing stories into everything you do. Be conscious of how you present yourself and your company. You have, if you’re lucky, 15 seconds to impress. Practice. Practice. Practice.”

Practicing your pitch is probably the most overlooked step. Practice telling your story to everyone. Tweak the opening. Tweak the close. If you get a laugh here, hone in on why your listener is laughing. Take your business to the next level by implementing stories into everything you do. Be conscious of how you present yourself and your company. You have, if you’re lucky, 15 seconds to impress. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Analytics are critical here. They can show you when viewers stop watching, when they fast forward, when they rewind and so much more. With this powerful insight, you know exactly what your viewers want to watch and what you need to change. These little tweaks will help with viewer engagement and give you the absolute best story. All of this could ultimately lead to more signups and more conversion. Heck yes!

The Close

When it comes to your business, we’ve found and firmly believe that storytelling is the number one way to boost sales, remain memorable in your clients’ minds, and spread lots of love with everyone you encounter (offline and online). It’s not hard to craft your best story, but it will take some dedicated thought, committed practice, and continual tweaking to hone in on. But trust us, once you’ve started down the path of telling stories, you’ll delight your customers and they’ll keep coming back to you for more. A good story is a digital memento, and I happily share it with my network.

Thanks for reading and remember that the best story always wins. What’s your story? Or as they say in Zimbabwe, “Tune me the gwan, brah” (Translation: “Tell me the story, friend”).

Eric Hinson


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