Once Upon a Sale: The Power of Storytelling

By Jim Ellis

Did you notice that for this summer’s Olympic coverage, probably half of the content was backstory on the athletes? I’m sure there were plenty of events to fill up NBC’s programming schedule, but NBC understands the power of a story. They understand how knowing an individual’s background, especially if it’s an against-all-odds rise to glory, will help us root harder for our athletes.

Stories are probably one of the most elemental facets of life. We read stories in school, hear parables in church, and watch hours of stories on TV and at the movies. Whether it’s fantasy or reality, we’re hooked. My earliest childhood memory is being rocked in a chair and told a story.

So with all of the power of a story, why aren’t more companies acting as storytellers?

In a recent e-book called Story Juice, authors Julie Fuoti and Lisa Johnson put forward several key considerations. Consider the following…

  1. The average adult’s undivided attention span is 15 to 30 seconds
  2. Stories are 22 times more memorable than straight facts
  3. Stories stir emotion, and you’re more likely to inspire action when you evoke emotion

And yet, I see countless presentations, pitches and marketing materials that simply list facts and figures, features and benefits. They inform, and sometimes they differentiate, but they fall short of making me take action.

One of my clients is BRAX Fundraising. They are in a $2 billion industry that any parent has most likely helped fuel – think cookie dough, wrapping paper and chocolate bars. Nearly all of the competition in this space is touting the nuts and bolts of their respective programs (profit margin, ease of program, quality of product). BRAX’s program has some great features and benefits, including the fact that they’re the only fundraising company licensed to sell NFL products.

The crucial element behind all of these facts, though, is the stories. How are the fundraisers helping the children? How is the money making a difference in their lives at their school? Will it help them take a trip to D.C., will it equip a school with a new playground? Signal is helping BRAX push their success stories to the very front of their messaging. We’re helping them evoke the emotion that is going to inspire action.

Otherwise, it’s just like watching our Olympians compete without knowing the compelling backstories.

Download the full e-book Story Juice.

Jim Ellis

Partner / VP Business Development

Jim joined Signal in 1999, bringing us his formidable skills in project management, client relations and number-crunching. He became a partner in 2017. Jim manages the business development team and offers seasoned expertise in account management, digital marketing and brand strategy. As a songwriter and musician with a business degree, he believes this “dual personality” gives him the understanding needed to be an effective liaison between business owners and Signal’s talented creative team. Originally from Ohio, Jim graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.S. in Business Administration.

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