If you’ve ever endured a mumblecore film or forced yourself to slog through 100 pages of Proust, you understand why drama is indispensable to a story. Without drama or conflict, there’s no forward motion, and you’re stuck with the status quo, which is Latin for “boring.”
A business biography that focuses only on your personnel and products is every bit as dull. The solution: Spice up your storyline by letting customers know about some of the hurdles and hardships your company has faced.
That’s not to say that your business biography needs to read like a soap opera in order to be interesting. Drama comes in many forms, and even small conflicts can drive a story forward. Chances are you’ve experienced the drama of:
- Recession. Everyone knows the pain of the last few years, and shuttered storefronts are proof that small businesses felt the pain, too. When you share your story of survival, customers will feel more inclined to stick with you during the good times.
- Competition. Big-box stores may have low prices, but mom-and-pop shops have emotion on their side. You’re David in this story, so share how it felt when Goliath came to town. Don’t worry about bringing the giant down. Just standing your ground makes you the good guy, and it makes for a great story.
- Disaster. Fires, floods, earthquakes — nobody wants to experience that kind of drama, but when disaster does strike, be sure to make it a part of your business biography. It worked for Trae Wieniewitz, who uprooted his financial planning service following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, moving hundreds of miles away to Knoxville, Tenn., where he didn’t know a soul. Initially viewed as an interloper, Wieniewitz used his survivor story to help connect with the locals, and his business grew seven-fold.
Drama works because it humanizes the players and gives us someone to cheer for. We identify with struggle. We connect with emotions such as fear, uncertainty and disappointment.
You don’t have to be a Shakespeare to harness the power of drama; you just have to be honest, vulnerable and human. For instance, take Erika Kotite, the founder of a brilliant and beautiful online magazine called Toque. I’ve enjoyed Toque from the start, but it took this newsletter item to get me truly emotionally invested:
Toque was hacked two weeks ago. Seems a gang of phish-farmers decided they wanted to harvest some bank customers and chose one of my sites as control central. It was like having bad case of head lice: miserable and damn hard to get rid of.
In her newsletter, Kotite recounts the struggle to get Toque up and running again, shares some of the lessons learned, and then closes with this:
Adversity builds character, crisis tests resiliency. Although worn out from the drama of resuscitating Toque, I am gratified to realize that it’s well worth saving.
Kotite’s little drama won’t make the evening news, but it will likely make readers rally to her cause — and therein lies the power of a story well told.
Photo credit: tonynetone via flickr CC