People love stories. Businesses need stories.


Where does that leave you, the marketer?


I recently shared my answers to that question with a few groups of students at Ball State University. Here’s what we chatted about.

What's in a story?

Most talk about “story” focuses on the academic takes associated with story construction and dissemination. Think Joseph Campbell’s “monomyth” or Freytag’s Pyramid.


Those are fine frameworks in the classroom, but “story” can be expressed much simpler than that. I demonstrated as much with the Ball State classes using, of all things, Super Bowl commercials.


After all, with millions of ad dollars at stake, Super Bowl commercials need to tell amazing stories in 30 seconds.


From those commercials, we can deduce the three key elements of any story:

Character. Conflict. Resolution. Mastering the intermix of those three elements gives top-tier storytellers their powers.

Storytelling at your job

So what does this look like in the workplace? Well, the marketer’s job is to rouse a reaction from their audiences — a reaction that leads (eventually) to a buying decision.


And boring content doesn’t get that done.


It’s the marketer’s job to connect with people emotionally, which then gives folks the opportunity to use logic to justify their decisions. Move someone’s heart, and their mind will follow.


And stories are built to do exactly that.


So how do you create a great story?


Listen to your customers.

People skip this step all the time. Don’t. 


Listen to what your customers are actually saying (without you pressuring them into buying) and you’ll beat 99% of your competition.


Structure your story.

Stories shouldn’t move willy-nilly; the three-act structure has survived for a reason. Give us a beginning, middle, and ending. Be clear in that progression, and enjoy telling us the story in the space between.


Craft a compelling call to action (CTA).

In business writing, you need a clear, direct CTA — tell me what to do next.

  • Be specific — readers are lazy, so make it easy to take the next step.
  • Be urgent — again, we’re lazy. Make us care now.
  • Be relevant — connect your CTA directly with your narrative.

Pick a format.

Story exists in many forms: print and digital writing, podcasts, video, live presentations. Pick the ones that match best with your audience’s needs and have at it.


Some notes on formats:


Tips for entry-level talent first getting started in marketing

Storytelling matters at every level of an organization. But not everyone gets to set that direction.


As entry-level talent — college graduates getting their first jobs, for example — you won’t be setting marketing strategy. You’ll be executing (if you’re lucky) directly on tactics. Some tips to help you:

(These may look familiar if you’ve read other posts on my website.)


It’ll be tough, but don’t get discouraged! With a strong network and opportunities to practice, anybody can tell great stories that move people — to feel something and to buy something.


If you’re interested in using my presentation for your own classes, feel free to grab a copy.)