The 5 biggest mistakes when using storytelling in business

Claire Taylor, author of ‘The Tao of Storytelling’ has worked with a range of business types and sizes, and in her experience there are the five common mistakes that businesses make when using storytelling:

1. Thinking that you are the ultimate storyteller for your brand

The most important storytellers for your brand are your customers. They tell stories about your brand to themselves, first and foremost and then to others.

This means that your brand story doesn’t begin in your marketing department – instead it begins with the development of the product or service that you’re offering to your customer. Your customers’ experience is what will shape the stories that they tell themselves and others about it. And it is the stories of your customers about your brand that will ultimately determine its sales trajectory.

2. Using the word story in your brand tagline but not telling any story

Storytelling and story have been randomly appearing in brand taglines more than ever during the last 12 – 18 months, often when no story is being told.

The word story doesn’t differentiate your brand unless you tell a story. The story might be related to ingredients, sourcing, your passion, your expertise, the business roots, your customers’ stories and a myriad of other real stories that can inspire your audience.

3. Telling a leadership story that your audience doesn’t buy

Leadership stories are powerful ways to share a vision and inspire people to take action. However, you need to have done your homework and know exactly how your message is going to resonate with your audience. If you’re disconnected from the people that you want to influence, then simply espousing an, albeit great, story will not suffice.

The trick is to understand the narratives that are already dominating the minds of your audience. Then you can speak from a place of empathy and tailor your story so that it resonates with them and inspires them to get behind you as their leader.

4. Not listening to, or ignoring, the stories of the people within your team or organisation

Every person, team and organisation is full of stories. Some of these narratives are empowering and others are not. Some are about business and others are about the relationships between individuals. Some are highly subjective and others come from a more objective stance.

None of that is good or bad – it is just the way that humans behave in groups. People are the lifeblood of the business and all humans are storytelling creatures. You may not want to listen and understand these stories, however they can create the foundations upon which to build a new, more integrated and empowering story for your team or organisation as a whole, enabling you to harness your most powerful resource – people.

5. Telling a personal story that you haven’t yet healed

When you’re telling a personal story it’s not so much your words as the energy and passion that you infuse your audience with that really matters.

If you tell a tale about a difficult, painful, frustrating, frightening or embarrassing experience, that your have now healed, the wisdom from it can inspire your listeners.

However if you tell that same story and you’re still stuck in feelings of anger, resentment, grief, mortification or another negative emotion, that’s what you will inadvertently transmute to your audience.

So be sure you have healed your story before you tell it.

Storytelling is powerful when it’s used well. The fact that the wisdom of the ages has been handed down through the art of storytelling is a testament to its effectiveness. Storytelling is in vogue because of its power as a tool to connect people and communicate, so let’s give it the reverence that the art deserves and use it wisely and often in business.