Business Writing: Putting Stories to Work - dummies

Business Writing: Putting Stories to Work

By Natalie Canavor

You may be your own most important audience when writing for business purposes. A strong story tells you where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you’re going. It solidifies the relationship between who you are, what you do, and where you want to go. That’s why therapists use story-building to help people understand and reframe their life experiences.

It’s energizing to recognize that your life and career are still in progress: You can adjust course to change the ending! Stories work similarly for organizations. They communicate a shared history or vision serve as the glue that unifies people and keeps them on the same track.

On the practical level, your own story gives you a versatile tool that can be adapted to:

  • The “About Us” section of a website
  • Website pages that focus on good-cause accomplishments or needs
  • An elevator pitch
  • A job application cover letter
  • Online profiles
  • Pitches for investment or other support
  • Brochures and marketing materials
  • A speech or presentation opening
  • A media feature about your business
  • Special event promotions, like a company anniversary
  • Posting in your office as a framed piece
  • Exhibit handouts for trade shows and other public events
  • A blog

Several good stories were recently told on restaurant placemats. Each basically relates who the founders were, where they came from, how the restaurant was born and evolved, which descendants are running it now, and what makes it so great. These sorts of stories are hard not to read while you’re waiting for your food! Look for suitable opportunities (not necessarily on dinner placemats) to share and tell your own stories.

For nonprofit organizations, stories can provide the entire key to fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and more. They can make the mission real and important, even exciting. Some nonprofits do this through the “founder” story, effective when that person is famous or charismatic. Often, charitable causes tell moving stories about the people who need their help and/or success stories about those they have helped. The most effective ones revolve around specific individuals.

Many nonprofits are good at embodying their sense of purpose and accomplishment in stories. Companies can learn a great deal from them about humanizing abstract ideas to touch people and make their organizations memorable.

Stories can be prime tools for carrying a corporate message about its good works, such as the charitable causes it supports or its efforts with sustainability, green building, and conservation. Demonstrating corporate responsibility is a must for all businesses today, and telling stories is a great way to do that.