Beware of ‘borrowing’ stories

StorytellingGood stories make for good content.

But there should be health warnings about which and whose stories you use.

It’s easy to search online and ‘borrow’ a story which could give you a useful anecdote, interesting tale or metaphor for your communications content.

You can see why this is appealing. It may simply be an excellent story, or be about a famous person, and many people would therefore be interested.

But lurking among these easily accessible stories lies hidden dangers.

Check your sources

The internet is rife with stories that have not been accurately checked or verified.

Not checking sources to verify authenticity can damage the perceived authority of your content and channel, and your brand.

It therefore reflects particularly badly upon the author and the business if your stories are found to be inaccurate and sources haven’t been properly researched.

Using other’s stories

Using a story about what happened to someone else in order to convey your message is OK up to a point, for example, by retelling a few stories from the life of Steve Jobs or Richard Branson.

But there are pitfalls awaiting the unwary.

Here’s why:

1. There’s a strong chance that if you’re simply using someone else’s story then your readers will already have seen it doing the rounds – and nothing looks worse than unoriginal content.

2. Borrowing someone else’s story – even from someone famous – will generally not be as powerful or convincing as using one of your own stories.

The story is more believable and relevant, and is delivered with more authority because you are talking about events that happened to you or your company specifically. Personal stories have greater impact.

Generating your own stories

You could draw on stories from your company’s corporate history – that’s easy enough.

But what if you’re a small company or a start-up and don’t have a corporate history to speak of, and therefore don’t have corporate stories to draw on?

One way round this is to view the stories as belonging to the people that comprise the business. So tell their personal stories, for example by drawing on their personal lives or career histories – there are bound to be nuggets of gold if you search hard enough.

This won’t necessarily be easy first time but there are many techniques available for doing it, and this is where good communications pros come into their own.

When you help businesses mine powerful personal stories you are helping them achieve impact but also helping them in the long run to maintain trust and credibility.

Do you work in communications or public relations? Get ideas, inspiration and motivation by subscribing for free to receive communication blog posts by email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*