Note: This post is Part 1 in a two-part discussion of a copywriting and storytelling resource I use to create digital business narratives that get attention.
“Mama, tell me a story.”
I hear this phrase from my three-year-old son about as often as “Mama, I want a snack.” Or “Mama, I want a juice box.”
In case you don’t have preschool-aged children, let me explain: I hear it a lot.
At first, these frequent requests for stories caused me to fret: was I not giving my child enough to play with on his own? Should I do more activities to keep him busy? Why did he constantly need me to entertain him?
But let’s take a look at what my son, like most kids, asks from his mother:
c) Connection via storytelling
These are basic needs. Stories aren’t just frivolous flights of fancy: they are what bring families and society together. They’re the building blocks of civilization. We tell stories about our heritage, about current events, and about our dreams of the future. We use stories to teach the next generation. Our kids use stories to learn about the world. Great businesses know great stories gain sales and customer loyalty.
The New Course
As I mentioned in last week's post, business storytelling has become an essential job skill. Instead of sponsoring elaborate team-building retreats, corporations are opting for storytelling workshops to help employees gain public-speaking, pitching, and presentation chops. Learning the basics of a good narrative doesn’t end in the conference room, however: your website is an opportunity for you to immerse your audience in the interactive story of your business.
What's Your "About" About?
The first place people typically go when visiting a website is the “About” page. Every time someone clicks on that “About” button, it’s an invitation for you to gain his or her trust, admiration and business through the medium of story. Let’s take a look at a way to present a rich corporate narrative that will get your customers excited about doing business with you.
How to Tell a Great Story in 6 Steps
When I was in an undergraduate folklore class in college, I was introduced to the work of Joseph Campbell. Campbell introduced the concept of the “monomyth”, or the “Hero’s Journey”: a framework that describes the fundamental plot of all adventure narratives. As an avid reader, I became somewhat obsessed with looking for the monomyth in every plot I read, and more often than not, I found it: the Hero’s Journey is a source of inspiration for dozens of blockbuster movies and bestselling books, including the Star Wars franchise and the Harry Potter series.
The Hero’s Journey can be applied to almost any situation in which the protagonist of the story is transformed in some way by his or her experiences. It captures the human experience through mythic symbols. Let’s work our way through some key elements and discover how your business story can in fact be your personal myth.
1) The Call to Adventure
The call to adventure in mythology is the catalyst for the story: a hero’s everyday life is suddenly interrupted by an experience that inspires him or her to leave the mundane behind and begin a journey into the unknown.
What inspired you to do what you do now? Did it seem like you were born to do it, or was it something you discovered and set your mind to do? What was that first moment like?
I remember the first book that inspired me to make the move from being a reader of books to a writer of words: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. In it, a young girl, very much like me, who saw the written word as a lifeline to a world outside of her circumstances, was given this advice:
“Look at everything as though you were seeing it as either for the first or last time: thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”
That’s what writing was for me: an opportunity to look at the glorious world around me with wonder and to capture that wonder with words.
2) The Refusal & Acceptance of the Call
In many stories, when the hero is given the opportunity for adventure, he or she may balk at the undertaking. Think Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: as a home-body, he couldn’t possibly leave the comfort of Shire.
However, some kind of event will convince the hero that he or she is the only one who can take on the responsibility of what he or she is called to do. Bilbo eventually was lured into the life of adventure after unwittingly hosting an impromptu dinner party for the Dwarves.
No doubt at some point at the start of your business journey you experienced an “I can’t do this” moment. When was it? What helped you change your mind and continue on?
It wasn’t until I was an at-home mom, desperate for some kind of creative and intellectual outlet that didn’t involve potty training or Yo Gabba Gabba that I even considered being a freelance writer. However, I didn’t think it was possible to actually have a full-time career in a creative industry without being a starving artist, and I had a family to help support.
Then I made a realization: freelance writing was the career I had been working toward all along, and I hadn’t even known it. Before motherhood, I had spent over a decade in a sales career I began as a day job while I pursued acting gigs. As an actress, I learned the craft of audience engagement and narrative. As a sales rep, I gained important business skills and understood how to anticipate and meet client needs. I was meant to do this freelance writing thing.
3) Supernatural Aid
After the hero decides to begin the journey, a benefactor of some kind often offers help or wisdom. Shortly after, he or she is joined by companions on his journey. For example, Dorothy is given the ruby slippers by Glinda and soon she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion.
So what’s your magic gift? Did you receive some solid advice or a fantastic client to start your business journey? Who joined your team (if you have one)?
I discovered freelance writing accidentally, through a Facebook group for moms. I followed a link on one of the member’s profiles, and I found myself reading a list of websites that pay people to write. From there, I dove right in: whenever the kids were asleep, I eagerly submitted as many writing samples as I could.
After a few months of ghostwriting random content orders, I began collecting a regular client list. My work earned the attention of the editors of Parenting Pad, and I was invited to be a regular contributor. My writing career had begun, and the best part was, with every post I was learning something new.
I hope this is helping so far. An About page doesn’t have to be the story of your life, but it should be the story of your career.
In the next part, we’ll discover the rest of the hero’s journey along with ways to make your About page reflective of your culture and brand.
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