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It’s the Most Wonderful (and Noisy) Time of the Year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… as long as you’re not in marketing.

Then it’s the most competitive. With December comes hopes for a White Christmas, or a glittery Hanukkah, and the feeling that you’re constantly competing for attention.

It IS hard to compete with stories of holidays past and hopes for Santa gifts present (see what I did there?), but today’s column looks at how to leverage storytelling best practices to captivate immediately - by knowing who your audience is and what they value.

You can do it in three sentences.

Great storytellers start by building rapport. They don’t start by saying, “Here’s what I’m here for,” or, “Here is what’s great about me and why you’re going to love this story.”

Instead, storytellers establish affinity by affirming the values they share with the audience in that moment.

To do this in a pitch, a conversation, or even an email, research your audience:

If you’re pitching a person directly:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Job title/role

  • Feelings

  • Goals

  • Values

If you’re pitching a brand/organization:

  • Function/what they do

  • Audience

  • Goals/Mission

  • Values

  • Fears/Concerns

Of all those, “values” is the key insight. Their identity basics such as age, gender or what kind of business it is, will tell you the kind of language and tone to use. But knowing an audience’s values tells you what to actually say.

Pro Tip: You can cheat by going to the “About” page and finding the most succinct, non-jargon-filled sentence the person or organization uses to describe WHY they do what they do.

Once you have these identifying basics, you’re ready.

Sentence one: how happy you are to be addressing the audience because you admire or value something about them. Use words they use when they describe themselves.

Sentence two: relate yourself or your organization to your audience through the pursuit of the thing you value about them.

Sentence three: a fresh insight you can offer based on this shared value and your research. This can tease your big idea/pitch.

For example:

1. I am so excited to be talking with you because of the way you do X and Y, and your commitment to A and B.

2. Through our work doing C and D, my organization similarly understands the importance of A and B, and we are inspired by your pursuit of it.

​3. One of the things we’re excited about discussing today is how to leverage your success in doing X around a new way to achieve B through incorporating BIG IDEA.

In this way, you’ve shown that you see your audience, you know who they are and what they do, and you share a key value. Mentioning shared values - and the ways you pursue them - is a powerful way to quickly build affinity because it’s predicated on something deeper than circumstantial similarities.

Maybe add a little tinsel, and you’ll be ready to captivate, even at Christmastime.


For more from the Storytellers Brand Studio, reach out here:


About Megan Finnerty

Megan is a journalist and storytelling consultant. Essentially, she’s a professional listener, who likes to talk. It’s complicated. She’s the director of the Storytellers Brand Studio, which curates and hosts live storytelling events for brands and nonprofits. And she’s the founder and director of the Storytellers Project, a nationwide series of live storytelling events from the USA TODAY Network. She’s coached thousands of people to share true, first-person stories. She graduated from Purdue University, and was a news features reporter at The Arizona Republic for 14 years. She feels strongly about feminism, cocktails, and NPR, and prefers a bold lip to a smoky eye.

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