"Here's to the crazy ones."
So began one of the most iconic storytelling campaigns in history. When my mentor, Steve Jobs, created the "Think Different" ad in the late '90s, he knew that the key to building the Apple brand was telling a great story--one everyone wanted to be a part of.
Today, authenticity has never been more important for building trust and rapport. In the fast-moving world of business, it can be challenging to know who to trust, but it's the key to getting things done.
The best way to gain that trust is to connect with others, and that connection is built through story. All people--whether they are your investors, your partners, or your customers--make purchases based on emotion. Stories, when told well, can engage that emotion to inspire and motivate the people around you to take action.
Entering the Minds of Great Storytellers
The art of storytelling will never die. In fact, stories are so important that three of my colleagues--Michael Margolis, Nancy Duarte, and Jessica Mastors--have all created businesses specifically to assist entrepreneurs with reaching out to consumers to tell their stories.
These narratives create empathy, trust, and commitment, uniting the storyteller and his or her audience through shared interests. Howard Schultz and Chad Hurley both knew this well, and their finesse with storytelling helped them build the empires of Starbucks and YouTube, respectively.
Traditionally, stories were told around the campfire at night. But in today's world, we come face to face much less often, forcing us to rely on digital mediums to get these messages across. During my time at Apple, I co-created a conference centered on this very topic. It focused on the new tools and technologies that would enable content creators to tell stories in richer, more powerful, and more immersive ways than ever before.
Crafting Your Own Story
Tools and technologies can enable content creators to tell rich stories, but the heart of great storytelling remains the same. Follow these steps to utilize your own narrative and unite with your audience:
1. Establish a common thread for connection. I recently had lunch with Alessandra Ghini, a dynamic marketing and brand exec who worked wonders for the likes of Apple, Starbucks, and now with tea company Teforia as their CMO. There was a one-page article profiling her in a recent issue of Fast Company and I was inspired to reach out to her and establish a connection. Alessandra is one of many leaders I've discovered through articles or TED Talks who had shared a compelling narrative that made me want to reach out and connect with them.
Good stories, like Alessandra's, help others experience your values--and your value to them. That common thread allows us to quickly create bonds, trust, and connections, which can eventually lead to great business opportunities.
2. Be authentic in your storytelling. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was slated to fly on Flight 93, but miraculously I didn't get on the flight as planned. When I tell the story of how and why I averted being a passenger on that terrible day because of my intuition, people are always viscerally moved.
Trust is built on authenticity. When we tell good stories, we share our authentic selves and experiences. This openness and vulnerability brings others into our world and enhances previous connections.
3. Inspire others to take action. The final key to great storytelling is evoking emotion and inspiring others to action. When Bono and Bobby Shrive launched the (RED) campaign a decade ago, they envisioned an AIDS-free generation. Part of their strategy was to enroll powerful brands like Apple, Nike, AMEX, Starbucks, Gap and many others to create a red version of their products, proceeds of which would go to the (RED) campaign. They told their story so well that they've inspired millions of people to purchase products that raised more than $350 million since 2006.
Chris Anderson took over TED as chief curator in the early 2000s and has obviously created a massively successful brand. His new book shares how carefully crafted short talks can be the key to unlocking empathy, stirring excitement, spreading knowledge, and promoting a shared dream.
As any successful business leader will tell you, the right narrative is more powerful than virtually any other tool at your disposal. A story told well can make a dent in the universe.