The four commandments of storytelling are
• Write what you know.
• Show, don’t tell.
• Start at the beginning, go to the end, and then stop. And
• Know your audience.
Yes, I know they’re over-simplified. But putting them together builds credibility and trust. Know what you’re talking about. Audiences respond to the respect you show them by sharing the real deal. Start piling on the filigree and they’ll lose interest. Give them examples…and examples that matter to them. Concrete examples and a simple, direct exposition show respect for the readers’ time and intelligence. And none of the forgoing is possible if you can’t crawl into your reader’s (or customer’s) head: It’s easy for me to understand what I mean when I talk. It’s much harder for me to understand what you hear.
These are the building-blocks of a relationship, a process we talk about a lot in this issue. A relationship isn’t embodied in a technology or a channel or a piece of software. It comes from the customer or reader trusting your information and good will. We can certainly use technology to reach out faster or more widely, but it means nothing if we have nothing to say that the customer cares about. This doesn’t mean that new media are valueless—far from it. (That’s why PM360 will be reaching out into a variety of new media over the coming months.) It just means that, before you start to talk—or tweet or blog or webinar— you have to realize that the only things that really matter are the trust and understanding of the person you’re talking to.