Scary Monsters, The Google Game and the art of Storytelling

Since the dawn of man one way of sharing ideas has been more effective than any other….

Storytelling.

From cave paintings, to fireside tales spreading from camp to camp, to the growth of storytelling with industrial printing, to the world we live today where stories are told in a huge variety of different styles, a bunch of different formats and virtually instantly through the inter-web.

We learn to tell stories at a young age. A day doesn’t go by without my little’un Sophie telling me about tales about her day, her desires and her dreams (which normally involve ice cream, scary monsters and Iron Man).

We then we got to school and learn about how to tell stories more effectively. Most of us read more stories than ever before and learn how to put the written word together more effectively than before….

and then we ‘grow up’.

As adults we still tell plenty of stories verbally. A day doesn’t go by when we share stories with our family, friends and colleagues in order to share our perspectives on entertain, life and as an opportunity to persuade.

However as I write this I find myself wondering if, and especially in the world of financial services, whether we avoid telling stories in much of our communication.

So you can see what I mean let’s play a game….

Go to Google.

Search for “Independent Financial Adviser (insert your local area)”.

Click on a few adviser websites.

Check on how many adviser websites on the first page ‘tells stories’.

Your experience might be different, but when I tried this little game and clicked through to a few sites I discovered something interesting.

There’s plenty of sites which tell me about the advisers (plenty about the advisers experience and professional qualifications but usually nothing personal), the business (again plenty about when the business started, the location and years of ‘collective experience’) and the areas the particular firm can help you with.

On a few of the sites you find there might be blogs. However most adviser blog articles seem to focus on the technical elements of our profession as opposed to the human.

What seems to be missing time and time again are the stories.

So here’s the question….

If stories are still the most powerful way we have to share ideas…..why don’t we do it more?

There might be a few reasons behind this.

It might be the perception that ‘adviser sites’ (or any other professional service website) need to be ‘professional’ and stories aren’t seen as fitting with this image. Personally I think this is nonsense! Surely if everyone is swimming away from telling stories and storytelling is a powerful way to deliver your message the intuitive thing to do is to swim against the tide and tell stories more!

It might be due to the perceived threat of regulation. However I believe telling stories allows you to express ideas and share concepts in ways which could potentially make your business more compliant, not less.

or

It might be due to the fact that storytelling takes time. Telling stories takes time and effort, Telling stories consistently enough to have a consistent commercial impact on your business takes even more. Maybe it’s the case that many advisory businesses feel that the effort they make telling stories might not deliver a commercial return. This might be true to justify the time and effort involved in storytelling in the short term, however in the long term I believe that storytelling as a medium to share ideas, provide insight and allows small advisory practices to build a brand personality which only a few short years ago would only have been possible in larger businesses.

As always writing an adviser lounge article leaves me with more questions than answers….one’s that I need your help answering….

In our profession do we use the power as storytelling as effectively as we should? and why don’t we use storytelling more?

Am I wrong about storytelling? Are more conventional approaches to promoting and marketing our businesses more effective?

Alternatively, and I love it if you could do this (as it might show the power of storytelling)….tell me a story!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.