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Park Howell On Mastering the Art of Storytelling

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Park Howell believes every brand has a story to tell. Even the most unlikely brands or businesses. Even if you’re selling software that helps businesses analyze their data, building microservices frameworks or automating the process of translating government documents –– you have a story. You just have to unearth it.

Park will join ANA Business Marketing Phoenix this March to reveal how organizations can become storytellers in a way that “hacks through the noise and hooks the hearts of your audience.” We caught up with Park for a preview of what’s to come. 

  1. Why do brands need to think about incorporating the art of story into everything they do?
    1. It comes down to there is so much noise that we all fight against. And that noise is typically content that is scrambled together and blasted out there. But if you don’t use the primal foundation of story, our subconscious doesn’t ignite. It tries to make sense of all this noise and it chooses to repel it rather than consume it. With the onset of social media and technology, the only way to hack through the noise and hook the hearts of your audience is through the primal power of story. 
  2. What advice would you have for organizations that don’t think they have a compelling story?
    1. If you’re in business and you’re making money and growing, then you have a compelling story. You just haven’t unearthed it. There are several foundational frameworks you can use to uncover them such as the “And-But-Therefore” which journeys through a series of three acts. The trick is to tap into primal story structure to uncover your story. 
  3. How can organizations begin to identify or uncover their brand story?
    1. Look at your audience from the perspective of three acts. Act 1 is the introduction to your audience. Set the stage. Who are they? What does their world look like? Act 2 is the problem they’re struggling with, or the conflict. Act 3 is how you help them resolve it. These three acts form the basis of your story.  
  4. What are the most common traps brands fall into when they start to develop their story?
    1. They place themselves first and at the center of the story. This is the number one mistake most brands make. You have to put your audience or customer at the center. 
  5. How do you ensure your customer is at the heart of your story?
    1. You have to place the customer first. Understand their journey and what stories they tell themselves about you, your competition, your industry. That insight helps guide you to the appropriate origin of your story –– one that matches up with their quest story. What do they emotionally wish for? What do they want to buy to fulfill that wish? What story will trigger their will to act?
  6. How do you know if your story resonates with your audience?
    1. Are they buying? Are they sharing it?
  7. How much do you shift your story for each stakeholder group?
    1. Your story will always be true. It has to have a foundation of truth throughout. So it may be in the telling, where you tell it through different perspectives. The overall narrative will remain the same, but the perspective will change based on your audience’s journey. 
  8. How do you become better at spotting stories in the wild for use in your inbound and outbound marketing efforts?
    1. It’s a matter of taking time to stop, take a breath and look at the real-world impact you’re having in the lives of individuals. You have to get out there and interview your customers and colleagues and see where you’re having real-world impact. Then share those anecdotal stories. They don’t have to be long. They’re short moments that made a difference in someone’s life. Not case studies, but short, impactful, real-world stories. 

To learn how to apply storytelling techniques in your organization, and connect with your audiences to rise above the noise, join Park and ANA Business Marketing Phoenix for this hands-on workshop: The workshop is Wednesday, March 18 from 4-6 p.m. at ASU SkySong in Scottsdale.