The Deal is in the Details

Whitewashing the Details of the Story

In case you hadn’t noticed, the concept of story is pretty hot right now. Basically every industry endorses it as its #1 bit of advice, with entire companies popping up to "help tell your story."

There are two avenues of storytelling. First, there is the simple method of telling what happened. Second, there is the story, or narrative, of your brand/product/benefit/company/cause that needs to be told. These stories make statistics come alive, and they help make your message more memorable. We've discussed this previously.

Today, we’re going to focus on the first type: How to commit to telling a story – and all of its unique details.

Just last week, I heard:

“Someone in my family was dealing with a health issue. I helped her, and she got better.”

It’s vague, cloudy. Nothing stands out.

This bland summary happens all too often – I call it whitewashing, or glossing over the details.

Instead, commit to the details. Describe. Be involved with your story.

What was the day? What were the symptoms? What was the pain? Specifically, what did you do? What else was happening at the same time? What were the specific obstacles? How did the other person feel?

Use the details of your story to help your listener get it.

The difference is subtle, but important. Adding those concrete details makes the story real to your listener. When the story feels real, it grows in credibility because people can relate to it.

Start noticing interesting details to include in future stories, such as:

  • Human Scale Details: Can you relate a cost to the price of a gallon of gas or a trip to Disneyland?
  • Dialogue: “I can still hear her saying ‘no one will work harder than me’” goes further than “she’s a hard worker.”
  • Brand Names: “Her Tesla” packs way more punch than “her car” does.
  • Actual Names of Meetings or Initiatives: Use “Global Technology Initiative,” rather than “the project we’re working on.”

By no means is that an exhaustive list.

Think back to a recent story you heard. What kinds of details stuck in your head? Let us know in the comments.

(Want more? Consider our Decker Made to Stick Messaging workshop).

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