With a deadline approaching, it was time for me to review another book for BetterSMB. I’d gone through the stack of books on my desk, looking for something — anything — that would stand out when each of the books has roughly the same value proposition: read this, and learn how to do something better at work.
That’s when I saw Stories that Stick, by Kindra Hall. Its colorful cover beckoned to me as the book promised that storytelling could change business.
I was captivated as I read Hall’s retelling of an encounter with a cologne salesman in Slovenia whose tale about the origin of a scent was so compelling that the author’s husband, normally someone uninterested in such things, had to buy it. A few pages later, I was surprised when a different salesperson at the same shop tried talking about the same product without the benefit of that story, leaving us with no desire to buy the cologne.
If there’s one thing a book that aims to teach you about storytelling has to get right, it has to weave stories around the explanation of storytelling mechanics. It has to make stories into something you can learn from. It has to make you want to read it. Stories That Stick succeeds at all of these, because Hall is a professional storyteller and wrote the book accordingly.
Part I of the book breaks down why storytelling is so powerful: you can use it to get the attention of your customers, as well as to persuade them and leave a lasting impression on them. When exposed to engaging stories, Hall explains, people’s brains create chemicals like oxytocin, which helps people bond, trust and love, and cortisol, which is correlated with attention.
This part of the book also breaks down the parts of a great story: identifiable characters, authentic emotion, a significant moment and specific details, as well as how to progress a story: start with things being normal, until something changes, which brings about a new normal.
The second part of the book is about the four stories each business needs to tell. And there’s a surprise here, for those who have up to now focused on stories for customers: Not all of the stories have prospects or customers as their primary audiences. There’s a chapter for each kind of story.
Value stories can be used to drive sales and marketing by making your it easy for your client to understand how great your product or service is. A story about a company’s founder can be useful for entrepreneurs raising money from stakeholders, who are buying as much into the founder as they are to the company, as well as for attracting talent. Leaders, executives and managers can use a story about a company’s purpose to inspire teams. A customer story is a lot like a value story, but it is sourced from your customers, giving it credibility.
The third part of the book provides information about how to find, craft, and tell stories. This part is full of advice that the emerging storyteller can use, including writing prompts that can help collect the seeds of stories, what to keep in mind as you refine your story to make it meet your business goals, and where to tell your stories for maximum impact.
The book also comes with a cheat sheet breaking down each of the business stories, and pages of footnotes, if you’re interested in reading more about why storytelling can work for your business.
With interesting narratives wrapped around explanations of how to use storytelling for businesses, this book may be just what you need to get your happily ever after.
Stories That Stick
How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business
By Kindra Hall
HarperCollins Leadership. 220 pages. $27.99