Why Storytelling Matters
Jaime teaches Storytelling in the Peer-to-Peer Space: A Workshop
I’m a bit of a black sheep among entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Unlike most of my peers who spent their formative years writing code, I spent mine writing stories. Most tech startups believe
In most fields, the terms “story” overused and undoubtedly abused. The word has been exploited to the point that it both means nothing and everything at the same time. So let me be clear: when I talk about “story” I am referring to the narrative of people. I believe deeply — and Vayable.com is proof of this— that writing stories in which your customers are the protagonist, is as important as writing code when building a community marketplace. Many of tools I draw upon are the fundamentals of narrative writing and nonfiction storytelling that I’ve gathered from reporting and writing stories of hundreds of people around the world. Some of these tools I learned in Journalism school, others through experience in the field. The following list are ones I find to be most important, but by no means is an exhaustive list of storytelling tricks for startups in the peer-to-peer space.
Storytelling cheat sheet:
1. Identify your founder story.
The FIRST thing every founder should do is make sure they know their OWN story. This is the “why did you start X” story. It’s critical to define as it will serve as a template for your product, team, design and marketing. All other stories relating to your company will map back to this story. These stories become like allegories to explain the purpose and meaning behind your product.
2. Define the problem in terms of “Jack and Jill.”
It’s easy to talk about the problem you’re solving in the abstract, but it’s really hard to persuade people to believe it that way. The best tool to communicate the problem your product is trying to solve is to tell it in the form of a story, like “Jack and Jill.” People related to people more than they do to abstractions, statistics and vague ideas.
3. Show don’t tell
Don’t talk about how great your product is, highlight the people whose lives it has changed and tell their stories. At Vayable, we don’t talk about how we’re helping rebuild community, we tell the story of Milton, the homeless man who is offering his services as a tour guide.
4. Don’t bury the lede
Who are your most compelling users? What are your greatest victories? What are you doing that’s never been done before? Surface THESE stories to the top in your design, messaging and product development. Focus in on your “lede” and let the rest go.
5. Keep it simple
This is the most important one. Be as concise as possible and make sure that every word, character and idea you introduce feeds the story you’re telling. This is a tough, but worthwhile skill to master. As Mark Twaine once said, “Forgive me, this is a long letter. I would have written you a short letter, but I didn’t have the time.”
Follow these five steps and you’ll see notable improvements to your product and company.
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