How Investing in Storytelling Can Make Your Company More Profitable

Five ways from five perspectives to tell the same story

Let’s get a few assumptions out of the way: You’ve got a good product or service, you’ve done your market research to make sure you have a consumer base, and most importantly you’ve got sales. Now you want to boost profits. How do you do it? Hire a storyteller.

I know what you’re thinking: “If I hire someone, that’s taking money out of the coffers, not putting money in.” And in thinking that you probably align with most of corporate America today. Instead, look at storytelling as a path to a greater payoff down the line—just like a good story.

And every message helps build and protect your reputation. Bad reputation? There go your profits!

I’ve been in more than a few downsizing situations, such as the dot-com bust, multiple recessions, and being left out of mergers and acquisitions. In my experience, human resources (HR) and public relations (PR) are the first to get cut. After all, HR people hire and fire, so why do you need them if you’re not hiring? And PR people? Well, they don’t bring money in and are just a cost center, right? Wrong.

A good PR professional isn’t just about sending out press releases or writing great speeches for the C-suite. If you‘ve got the right person, he or she is a seasoned storyteller who can craft a message for every stakeholder. And every message helps build and protect your reputation. Bad reputation? There go your profits!

I’ve seen CEOs and other senior-level management write their own content. Because, after all, they are the most knowledgeable, they understand the technicalities—and they are the pros! But they are not necessarily gifted communicators or storytellers, and those shortcomings can come through at a critical time.

Take the following situation as an example. Company XYZ discovered a brand-new use for an existing drug (ABC Rx) that will shorten the healing process of burns by more than half. It’s going through FDA approvals for this new use right now and is expected to sail through without issue.

A simple press release headline might be “ABC Rx soon to be approved for healing burns.” But that doesn’t really tell the story, and it certainly doesn’t spark interest or action or result in any impact to the company’s reputation or bottom line. Here’s how a sophisticated PR person might tell that same story in different ways, depending on the audience or stakeholder:

1. Investors: “Existing drug’s new use opens up $1B market—FDA approval expected by end of Q2” (result: increased investment).

2. Patients: “Burn victims’ wounds can now be healed in half the time, reducing cost of treatment and quicker return to normal activity” (result: increased sales).

3. Doctors or burn centers: “Patients with burns have a new option with an existing drug—quicker healing” (result: increased sales).

4. Regulators: “FDA-approved drug has a new use—with no new side-effects—and will eliminate need for traditional, costly treatments” (result: faster time to market).

5. Employees: “Congrats to our research team who discovered that ABC Rx has a new life in helping burn victims—demand is expected to double.” (result: improved employee morale).

You can see how the same message told in a variety of ways can result not just in increased profits, but a sustainable boost to the company’s reputation.

This is just one example, but it makes it clear that skimping on telling your story is a bad idea. Hire an expert. The return on your investment will more than pay for the cost of a storyteller. A good story is just good business.

Patty Deutsche is a corporate affairs, government relations, and communications professional with experience in multiple public and private companies and government.

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Top image courtesy Patty Deutsche.