What is it about a story that keeps us riveted to our seats? Is it the plot, the characters, the setting? Of course it could be any one of these components or indeed all three, but the point is that stories, if told in a compelling fashion, always catch our attention.
The Panera Bread website is a good example of storytelling in action. Recently I stumbled upon the stories link on the My Panera section of the website. You might not consider the stories on this site overly compelling, but they do tell us more about Panera Bread and about the people who work there.
Take, for instance, a profile on head baker Tom Gumpel, who works out of his circa-1700s farmhouse in Connecticut. The profile gives us a snapshot of Tom’s day, including his early morning rise to pull lobster pots, the locally-grown strawberries he eats for breakfast, the preparations he makes to construct a brick oven in his backyard, and his decoration of a friend’s wedding cake.
This might seem like trivial stuff, but it gives the reader a feel for Tom the character and the real-life employee of Panera Bread. We get to know Tom better, and as the article proceeds, we find out more about his life prior to joining Panera Bread, including his experience as a certified master baker and pastry chef, and we begin to trust him as the baker of fine bread.
Chris Brogan, president of Human Business Works, an online education and community company for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs, tells us that stories are how we learn best. No matter the amount of numbers, facts and details that are being thrown at us, if there’s a story that can glue it all together, it will definitely stick.
Take, for instance, the story of Carol Lindhorse of Old War Horse Moccasins, whose shoes are sold in some of the Levi’s stores in California. A video on the Levi’s website takes us to Carol’s backyard near Cave Junction, Oregon. We see how Carol makes these beautiful moccasins and we also learn about the natural benefits of wearing them.
Brogan tells us that telling a story on YouTube is different than telling a story on Facebook, Twitter or a blog. It’s even different than telling a story in an e-book or in a traditional book. While the different types of media make the storytelling a different experience, in the end, it’s all about how the story is told, not the medium through which it’s told.
Just as everyone has a story to tell, every business also has a story to tell. It doesn’t have to necessarily highlight the success of a product or a service. Maybe all it takes to interest prospective customers is to tell a story about yourself or your employees and how you play an integral part in the development of your business.