Luckily, her interest in stories and storytelling led to a long, happy career, first as a journalist and later as a public relations consultant.
Writing stories about people, places, products, research, and advances in business, education, and healthcare became her livelihood. And she had fun researching, writing, and producing them!
Good stories surprise us, writes former Pixar executive Shane Snow on Hubspot. “They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.”
In fact, Snow notes, research indicates that 78 percent of CMOs think content is the future of marketing and two thirds of marketers think branded content is superior to public relations, direct mail, and print advertising.
“As the majority of corporations start thinking of themselves as publishers, the defining characteristic among the successful ones will be the ability to not just spew content, but to craft compelling stories,” she adds. “Fact is, no one cares about your marketing goals. But everyone likes a good story.” The business people who can tell one will have increasing advantages in the marketplace.
Snow believes storytelling will be the biggest business skill of the next five years. “The fact is, people have evolved to be storytellers and to respond deeply and emotionally to storytelling,” he writes. “If brands want to be as successful online as they were in traditional media a few decades ago, they need to relearn the basics of storytelling.”
I’ve turned storytelling into the backbone of Cathi Douglas Communications, so I share Snow’s view that, beginning with a good hook, you must rivet the readers’ attention and get them to care immediately about the people and action you’re writing about.
Showing a change happening is critical, he notes. “When you craft a story, you need to show a character or characters changing. Do it right, and you'll engender a change in the audience, too.”
Connecting with readers on an emotional level requires the writer to use personal, shared experiences. Crafting a strong story structure comprised of a beginning, middle, and end will give you the necessary framework to involve conflict, challenge, accomplishments, and success, he writes.
Perhaps most important, you must be authentic in your story, writing, and message. Using data and research to bolster your points is critical.
The most memorable stories I’ve written include magazine features about foster kids enrolled in the groundbreaking Guardian Scholars Program at Cal State Fullerton and a profile of a woman with a fatal disease who fought valiantly but unsuccessfully against California’s death with dignity law.
In both cases, the people were compelling characters that you cared about. The message of each story prompted people to donate funds and support pro-life causes.
I’ve written stories about recovering addicts with a second chance to chase their dreams thanks to programs offered by the Orange County Rescue Mission; young scholars from poverty-stricken areas who are successfully pursuing a college education thanks to the University of the Pacific’s Community Involvement Program; and doctors at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital dedicated to helping young children fight life-threatening illnesses.
In each story, stories about people and their challenges colorfully illustrated the success of programs designed to help them. Personal stories are more compelling by far than stories about things – and they have become a hallmark of my writing for clients in the higher education, nonprofit, and healthcare industries.