I like the teacup with a chip in it. That’s the one with a story…

Some might argue that storytelling content is a bit 2019. I disagree. Obviously we risk sounding the same if we all use the same techniques in our marketing strategies, but the reality is that if you follow some simple rules you will stand out. The most important rule is to be yourself, no matter how inadequate you think you might be. You are not, you are you and there is nothing more original than that. Be clear about your purpose and your vision; the rest will fall into place. 

As the novelist and journalist Matt Haig says, the messy people are always the most genuine (and most fun).

I like the messy people. The ones so open and pure, they don’t know all the etiquette and codes of life and are out there daring to feel the full terror and wonder of existence and often get a bit broken along the way. I like the teacup with a chip in it. That’s the one with the story.

Matt Haig

So how should you avoid sounding like everyone else? Below are my top five tips for making sure the words you use in your communications make you stand out.

Storytelling tip 1: Be honest 

Most of the businesses that fall into the trap of being bland are big corporate brands trying to be your best friend or are small businesses backed by venture capitalist money. The reason they don’t appear genuine is they are often not. 

For those of you that are freelancers, sole-traders, creatives, family-run ventures, you have a huge advantage in that your brand is completely synonymous with you as an individual. So be honest about:

  • Who you are
  • Why you set up your business
  • What you have overcome to get to where you are
  • What your vision is
  • What you find funny
  • What you’re passionate about
  • What you do to unwind
  • What you’re reading, listening to, watching 

Honesty goes such a long way in storytelling content and is an easy place to start. This doesn’t mean you need to start dissing the competition or revealing your innermost secrets. It’s about being open and genuine. Your customers want to get to know you before they part witht their hard-earned cash. Let them!

Storytelling tip 2: Have an opinion

The words and phrases you use in your communications need to be backed by a point of view, otherwise they risk sounding like empty promises. Most people who have set up their own businesses are passionate about them. They have created something unique because they have spotted a gap in the market. Channel that passion into your communications: the authenticity will shine through. 

Storytelling tip 3: Create your own brand narrative

Having a sense of purpose is really important when it comes to creating your brand narrative. The best brands are really clear about where they are going and why, and this fits in really well with storytelling techniques. 

As the journalist George Monbiot describes in his recent Ted Talk, the most compelling stories are based on the same narrative, which goes something like this:

Disorder afflicts the land, caused by powerful and nefarious forces working against the interests of humanity. But the hero will revolt against this disorder, fight those powerful forces, against the odds overthrow them and restore harmony to the land.

George Monbiot

To figure out what your narrative is, think about the following:

  • Disorder: What is the problem that you’re trying to fix?
  • Nefarious forces: You might not have a ‘baddy’ in your story, but if you do – use it!
  • Hero: What’s your solution? Why is it better than anyone else’s? 
  • Harmony: How will your product or service restore ‘harmony to the land’?

Storytelling tip 4: Be your own editor

When I was a reporter pitching business stories to my editor, the questions I was always expected to have an answer to were: “Who cares and why now?”  

This is the best test of any story idea you might have and is the only way to establish whether it’s worth shouting about. Many businesses assume that because they have created something new it is newsworthy. It often isn’t. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader and ask: “Will anyone care?”

PR expert Lucy Werner talks about this in her insightful book Hype Yourself. She lists the following as stories not to issue as news to the media, although some could work on your own channels.

  • New branding or website – nobody really cares, it won’t change their lives. The only time this could be a story is if the design is phenomenal and then it might only be of interest to people in your trade, not your customers. 
  • New hire – this can sometimes be of interest, but only if it’s a new CEO of a big company like Apple. If you’re keen to promote a new hire, do it on social media or write a blog about it, but make sure you think about the purpose of the announcement. If it’s to boost your SEO and position your business as a great place to work, then go ahead. 
  • Award wins – great as a hook for something bigger, but not necessarily news in itself. So many businesses win awards!
  • New product launch – this in itself is not exciting. Again, use this as a way in to talk about something else that is of interest. 
  • New company launches – thousands of businesses are launched every year. 

Remember, there is always an angle that will enable you to promote whatever it is you’re promoting: the key is to think creatively about how you present that story. Always think about your audience first: Why should they care and why now? 

Storytelling tip 5: Absorb the world around you and use it  

Screenwriter and brilliantly acerbic journalist Nora Ephron famously said “everything is copy” and in many ways it is. But how you tell it is important. She explains:


When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you; but when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh. So you become the hero rather than the victim of the joke.

Nora Ephron

So, don’t be afraid to use your personal experiences to make a point. Think about what makes your business, your product, your service different or interesting. Be inspired by what is going on in your world, whether it’s the seasons changing, the landscape that surrounds you, the books you read, the news you’re following, the people you meet, the work you do. 

The way you interpret the world around you is always going to be personal, individual and ultimately authentic – the holy grail of all great communications.

Need help in shaping your story or getting it out there?