Make Your Stories Better

I had dinner last night with two of my oldest friends.

Rick, Terry, and I first met in 1982, when we all belonged to the same karate school on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

For the next several years, it was a central part of our lives; we saw each other, in and out of the school, all the time.

Thirty-nine years later, we still get together. Not often – about once a year – and always for dinner at the same restaurant.

Interestingly, our dinner conversations are almost entirely confined to “the old days.” We don’t give updates on our work, we don’t talk about our wives (current or former), and we know next to nothing about each other’s kids.

All we do is reminisce and tell stories – the same stories we’ve been telling each other for decades.

We talk about the people we knew in common. We talk about the crazy stuff that went on at the karate school, before, during, and after hours. We talk about the week-long trip the three of us took to Club Med in Martinique (don’t judge, it was the 80s).

The fact is, stories are how humans interact, stay connected, and remember. And, as Rick, Terry, and I have found, they stick in your brain for a really, really long time.

Your Marketing Needs Stories

Part of “standing out from the crowd” – one of the primary objectives of any professional service provider – is being remembered.

That’s why I tell lots and lots of stories – in this newsletter, in my presentations, and in my conversations with clients.

It’s because I know that stories from personal experience – yes, even in a business-oriented newsletter – are unique, compelling, and easy to hold onto.

Stories are what you remember. Stories make otherwise dull business information interesting. Stories are what create the illusion that you and I are friends (we’re not, please stop calling).

With that in mind, I have three suggestions for making your own stories better:

#1. Share enough detail.

Rick and Terry, 1982, Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Club Med in Martinique (again with the judging?).

That’s all there on purpose. It doesn’t change the utility value of the information; but it helps the story come alive.

How much detail is too much?

It’s hard to give you a useful generic answer, other than to say that in working with clients on their own newsletters and presentations, I almost never have to suggest that they remove detail. Invariably, they don’t include enough to make it feel real.

#2. Use recent examples.

I have a theory: the better you and I know each other, the more often we speak and the shorter the time frame mentioned in our interactions.

I see Rick and Terry once a year. Anything that happens between now and dinner next year, will count as “news.”

On the other hand, I see my lovely wife, Linda, several times a day. If I go home tonight and say, “You’ll never believe what happened to me last week,” she’ll wonder if I am finally beginning to lose my mind.

As a result, when you tell stories about things that happened recently – “I had dinner last night with two of my oldest friends” – you leave the reader/listener with the feeling that they know you well, strengthening the connection.

#3. Start fast.

I don’t buy into the idea that “nobody has any time anymore” and, therefore, your newsletter, blog, etc., has to be super-short to be effective.

After all, somebody is reading Harry Potter, watching Game of Thrones, and listening to all those podcasts that have sprung up like yelping dogs along the frozen seashore (why am I suddenly talking like Robert Frost?).

But I do believe people are more discerning about what they consume.

And, since humans are hard-wired to pay attention to stories, when you begin with one, you increase the likelihood of grabbing their attention and piquing (SAT word!) their interest.

Here’s the bottom line.

Your personal stories are easy to tell, unique to you, and compelling to your readers and listeners.

If you’re not using them in your marketing, you’re making it much harder for me to trust, remember, and care about you.


Discussion Questions:

  1. How long have you known your oldest friend and what is his/her name?
  2. Did you ever go to a Club Med in the 80s? Send pictures (extra credit if I am in them).
  3. Do you use stories in your writing and presentations?

Share your answers below…


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12 thoughts on “Make Your Stories Better

  1. Sarah Peterson

    “Yelping dogs along the frozen seashore” is the best description of the current media and podcast environment that I’ve ever heard. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Yes! It’s funny how sticky stories are. (And there’s still time to go to club med – i think.)

      Reply
  2. Brianne Vanderneut

    I met my best friend 18 years ago. Tommy. I decided to marry him.

    I was in Club Med in the late 80s – maybe you saw me there? I was the adorable chubby cheeked baby.

    I love stories, hearing them, writing them, reading them. They’re the best!

    Reply
  3. Barry Wilson

    1. My oldest friend is my wife Alice. We met 34 years ago…best birthday present ever!!!!

    2. Sadly “no” on Club Med…but my employer payed to send me to the Turks and Caicos Islands for a week of snorkeling…errrr…”training”

    3. I write web content so EVERYTHING is about stories…or convincing potential clients that they need to tell their stories in an engaging way.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      1. Somebody gave you your wife as a birthday present? Did you save the packaging in case you want to return?
      3. Agreed. It can take some convincing of clients who are concerned that stories are “unprofessional.”

      Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      2. I’m glad I’m not the only one willing to admit it!
      3. And I’m glad stories are working for you too.

      Reply
  4. Mark Wayland

    This week’s offering reminded me of the Capt. Jack story.. Best story ever…..

    A group of 15 year old boys discussed where they should meet for dinner. It was agreed they would meet at the McDonald’s, next to Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille, because they only had six dollars among them, they could ride their bikes there and Jennie Webster, that cute girl in Social Studies, lives on the same street and they might see her.

    Ten years later, the group of now 25 year old guys discussed where they should meet for dinner. It was agreed to meet at Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille because the beer was cheap, the bar had free snacks, the house band was good, there was no cover charge and there were a lot of cute girls.

    Ten years later, at 35 years of age, the group again discussed where they should meet for dinner. It was decided to meet at Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille because the booze was good, it was near their gym and, if they went late enough, there wouldn’t be too many whiny little kids.

    Ten years later, at 45, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. It was agreed; Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille because the martinis were big and the waitresses were pretty.

    Ten years later, now 55, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. They agreed to meet at Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille; the prices were reasonable, they have a nice wine list and fish is good for your cholesterol.

    Ten years later, at 65 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. They agreed on Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille because the lighting was good and they have an early bird special.

    Ten years later, at 75 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. They agreed to meet at Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille because the food was not too spicy and the restaurant was handicapped accessible.

    Ten years later, at 85 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. It was agreed they would meet at Captain Jack’s Seafood Grille because they had never been there before.

    Reply

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