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Tell Your Story
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Tell Your Story

By Christina Cornelius Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is Story Making a Comeback?

Whether I am weighing Dove versus Ivory or Cole Hahn versus Kenneth Cole, as a consumer, I tend to consider both facts and anecdotes. Truth be told, however, in recent years, facts, data, and logic have dominated persuasive communication. On the other hand, anecdote has played a supporting role. Recently though, anecdote or what the English major in me wants to call narrative is making a comeback.

Daniel H. Pink, author of buzz-making business book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, calls this neither anecdote nor narrative, but rather story and cites it as one of the six key business aptitudes that will make or break success in the next twenty years. “When our lives are brimming with information and data,” he writes, “it’s not enough to marshal an effective argument.” Story, he predicts is soon to become “the essence of persuasion…”

To show us how story works in business, he gives an example. Rushed, selecting wine, one evening for a dinner party, Pink says he honed in on three inexpensive reds, all $9 to $10. Two of the brands attempted to woo prospective customers with what Pink noted as ‘fancy wine adjectives.’ The third wine label was different because it told a story. It read:

The idea for this wine comes from two brothers, Erik and Alex Bartholomaus. They want to sell a great wine, sourced by Alex, labeled with Erik’s art, in a non-serious way for a good cause. Their goal is to pay homage to their late mother….Alex and Erik will donate 50 cents from the sale of each bottle to Hospice of Northern Virginia and/or various cancer research funds in the name of Liliana S. Bartholomaus.

Needless to say, Pink bought the third wine for his dinner party.

There may be better examples out there of how story can be persuasive in a way that a straight description of your product cannot. However, I think Pink’s anecdote does underline three significant points:

  • Story can differentiate a product from others
  • Story contextualizes a product
  • Story delivers information with emotional impact, in a way that a straight description of your product cannot

This seemingly straightforward idea, that story is a critical business aptitude, rings true to me and it affirms a belief on which I built my business.

I became an entrepreneur in 2002, when I incorporated The Writing Studio, LLC with Harvard Business Services, Inc. The Writing Studio’s clients are entrepreneurs and I help them to write business plans, grant proposals, marketing materials, and web copy. I have seen first- hand how an entrepreneur can engage others in their success by telling a memorable story about how they began or how they overcame an obstacle.

There is the story of two women who met for the first time as they waited, one in front of the other, in the unemployment line, and who started their video editing business the next day. I will never forget the story of the contractor and landscaper, not even nineteen years old, who doubled business one dreary winter by advertising through Christmas lights on his office rooftop. And I love the one about a young couple, expecting their second child, who changed their home phone into a 1-800 number and their kitchen into the headquarters of a budding service company.

In my experience, every entrepreneur’s story is inspiring and has the potential to become a powerful force in their success.

When Managing Editor, Carleigh Lowe announced the launch of Harvard Business Services’ first-ever blog—a virtual resource center and a place to share real stories, I knew I wanted to participate.

So today, I have become a blogger.

And I would like to make this, my first post, a call to my fellow business owners—a call that is two-fold. First, I want to encourage you to make this virtual place, a place where you find inspiration and motivation in the stories of others. Second, it is a call to craft your story, if you haven’t already, and to share it with us, and to integrate it into your communication with clients and colleagues.

Our stories play a lead role in our success. Craft yours, Share yours. Let’s try this together and see what it yields.

We want to share the story of your business on The HBS Blog! If you are interested please submit by emailing YOUR STORY in 1000 words or less to our Managing Editor,


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