Good stories have drama and drama comes to life in the action between characters. If the last corporate story you read was more fact sheet than blockbuster it was likely missing the vital personalities and perspectives needed to elevate it beyond corporate reflection.
Common pitfalls in story telling
Following my last blog on bridging the gap between good and great stories, inspired by a series of four short videos by Ira Glass, in the final part, ‘On Two Common Pitfalls‘ Ira points out a couple of pitfalls to watch for:
- Pitfall 1 – you feel you need to sound like other presenters
- Pitfall 2 – you focus solely on one perspective and lose the drama
There’s a tendency to take on ‘reporter voice’, mimic the intonation, build the same peaks and troughs of speech, and in the process your own voice gets lost. Audiences like individuals, and the more you put of yourself into your piece, the more you’ll give them to connect with.
Corporate ‘tone of voice’ or your own?
This rings true in the corporate world where there’s often a ‘house style’ or a corporate ‘tone of voice’. This works great for official communications like annual reports, thought leadership pieces, white papers and fact sheets, but when it comes to story telling, it’s your personal perspectives that create the engagement. If you report the facts alone, you’ll sounds like a fact sheet. If you only provide your opinion, you’ll come across as self-absorbed and the purpose of your story will get lost. You need to find a balance between these two to engage your audience and deliver the purpose of your story.
You need characters to create drama
Ira reflects that even if you’re producing a first person story documenting experience, what’s interesting is not just your take on things, it’s seeing how you interact with other people; seeing other people through your eyes seeing what you deal with – otherwise there’s no drama. You need all the things that happen between people. It’s not going to work if there’s too much of you and not enough of the other people, and it’s not going to work if there’s too much of the other people and not enough of you, because there’s not enough characters to make a drama.
How do you balance corporate reporting and personal perspectives?
Think about your last corporate story – how much was setting the scene, reporting the facts and concluding with the outcome? Did you mention how you felt? Did you recall your interactions with anyone else? If you’re not including other characters and creating some drama, you’re not really telling a story, you’re just recalling an experience.
My take outs
- Don’t lose your own voice amidst the corporate house style – one size does not fit all communications.
- Good stories have drama, drama needs action, and action needs characters – ensure your stories have the drama that creates the engagement.
- Balance your content between your subject and your perspective, all subject will read like a fact sheet, all perspective will sound like a soliloquy, both approaches will lessen your reader’s attention.
Think about the last corporate story you read – on a scale of ‘corporate fact sheet and business blockbuster’ where did it sit?