Personal Storytelling for Professional Service Firms

A story is meaningless unless it’s told. You should have at least one personal story ready to share with your market for when the appropriate opportunity arises. You need to practice personal storytelling so that it will have the most impact. Practice telling your story out loud to yourself, then move on to small audiences and gradually build to larger audiences.

A story is meaningless unless it’s told. You should have at least one personal story ready to share with your market for when the appropriate opportunity arises. You need to practice personal storytelling so that it will have the most impact. Practice telling your story out loud to yourself, then move on to small audiences and gradually build to larger audiences.

The Right Story for the Right Audience

You’ll need to create several stories so that you have more than one ready regardless of your audience and setting. These might detail different important parts of your life that made an impact on who you are today. When creating stories and when choosing which to tell, you should always keep in mind your audience, setting, and purpose of telling the story.

For example, the story that you’d tell to your business associates would be different than the one you’d tell your clients. With colleagues, you might tell a story that highlights some of the behind-the-scenes challenges to running a professional service company. For your clients, on the other hand, you may choose a story that focuses more who you are as an entrepreneur, business problems you or your company solved, or the change you want to make in the world. A story for a client should be used to communicate your vision.

The best way to choose the right story for the right audience is to create audience personas. Identify each type of audience you may be telling stories to and create a profile for that individual or group. Once you have some profiles, you can look at each and decide what kind of story would be most appropriate and effective. Some stories might work for more than one persona, but may differ in the delivery.

For each persona, here are a few things to consider when creating a personal storytelling or choosing a story:

  • What do they think of you? For example, a visitor to your website doesn’t know you yet, so you’ll have to establish your persona and relay to them what kind of person you are or what kind of business you represent. Alternatively, your long-term clients and employees will (hopefully) think highly of you and respect you.
  • How connected is your audience to you? Do they feel a kinship with you? For example, a fellow engineer may not know you well, but will likely feel connected simply because you are at the same company or in the same field. This is important to be aware of when telling stories rich in area-specific jargon or jokes.
  • How well does the person know you? You should have different stories for a person who doesn’t know you at all, as opposed to someone you have a deep relationship with already.
  • What are the person’s interests? Your story should be appropriate for those specific interests, especially if you’re talking to a client.
  • What emotions are most important to the listener? Whatever emotions you identify should be key elements to your story, and especially to its choice point or turning point. This will also influence how you choose a protagonist and how they’re portrayed in your story.
  • Is the listener pragmatic or idealistic? This one trait is a major factor in how well they’ll relate to a particular story but is not very effective in large groups since your audience will likely be a mix of both.
  • What problem or challenge can your audience relate to? This should be the key problem or challenge in your story’s plot. If you’re telling a story to a group of fellow attorneys, you’ll likely choose a story that includes common experiences for lawyers.
  • What are the listener’s possible expectations for a good story? For example, what do they expect to happen next? How do they expect the story to end?

You may also choose different stories depending on delivery – written or oral. For written text, you might choose stories that are longer and more involved if your audience has the time and inclination to read something like this. On the other hand, a written story used for your website’s Home or About pages should be brief and immediately attention-grabbing.

If telling the story orally, it is best to keep it short, or people may tune out. You want to keep your audience engaged throughout, so be sure that the content and delivery of your story achieves this. Use audience personas and the above ideas when you go back to write more stories, refine the ones you’ve written, and choose which story to tell when.

Sharing a personal story can be an invaluable marketing tool for professional organizations. For more advice on how to take advantage of personal storytelling, check out the report titled “Personal Storytelling in Business.”


The Best Stories to Tell Your Market

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Storytelling is an effective tool to be used in marketing. There are types of stories to tell your market that you can utilize an effective tool to be used in when marketing your professional service company. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most common types:

The Company Story

This is the story of your professional service company. A company story usually involves how the company came into existence and grew to its current state, often told personally by the founder or first employees. Through the company’s story, you convey to your audience the values and culture of your company.

A great example of a company story is the healthcare company Dignity Health. Started by Catholic nuns in nineteenth-century Ireland, the healthcare system still aims to provide healthcare to anyone and everyone, regardless of their life’s circumstances. Dignity Health commercials feature random acts of kindness and showcase human connections, their catchphrase being “Hello human kindness.” From the first acts of kindness expressed by the nuns, to random acts of “human kindness” today, the story of Dignity Health tells you that as a company, it is people-focused and community oriented. Because of this, people tend to think highly of Dignity Health, seeing the company as caring, approachable, and affordable.

The Personal Story

A personal story is a story of someone’s life. It could be how they overcame difficulties or how they reached the place where they are today. It could be something as simple as a scene the writer observed a few days ago that has relevance to their topic and their audience, or the single most defining moment of his/her life.

Many personal stories involve overcoming difficulties. For example, you might write a story about a time when you couldn’t manage your time well. You were always busy and had many things to do, but no free time to do what you enjoyed. This is the setting of the story. You then discovered a very simple and handy technique for managing time better, which helped you get more done and have more time to yourself.

The Professional Service Story

You can tell stories that relate to a service, whether it’s the professional service your company offers or something else. Your story could discuss the need for your service offered.

One way to discover great service stories to tell your market is to ask your clients to write the stories for you. This is an example of what’s called ‘crowdsourcing’, in which you turn some part of your content creation over to your audience. Crowdsourcing is a highly effective content marketing strategy because it gets your audience actively engaged.

The Client Story

This type of story is one in which your client relates somehow to your service. This is one of the best types of stories to tell your market because it emphasizes the benefits of your service offerings. When people read about a client’s own experience with your service, they can put themselves in the client’s place and understand directly how your services can benefit them. These stories are also great because they’re authentic.

A client story can focus on a common problem your market faces and how one particular client overcame this problem thanks to your company and the service it provided. For example, if you own a dental office and provide discounted dental care to low-income families, you could ask clients to send in their stories about how your services have improved their lives and their overall health. A great addition to these stories would even be some before-and-after photos, as appropriate.

The Employee Story

Employee stories are engaging because they take people behind the scenes and add a human element to your company. Your audience gets a glimpse of the inner workings of your company and how every person involved makes a difference. These stories also help to convey your corporate culture.

An employee story might feature a particular employee and how they’ve improved a service, helped the company reach one of its goals, or bent over backwards for a client in need. It might also be their own history of how and why they came to the company. An employee story is something personal or professional about someone who works for your company and which you feel will resonate with your audience.

Implementing stories into your marketing strategy will offer many benefits to your professional service company. For more information on how to successfully use storytelling as a marketing tool, check out the report “How to Use the Power of Storytelling in Marketing.”