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How to Find Your Story

[From an excerpt from ALL Magazine Spring 2017. Full issue here.]

As competition for share of voice in a crammed and crowded world gets tougher, brands and businesses alike need a story to stand out. Creative and copywriter Clancy Walker, owner of tellingyourstory.co.uk takes a look at the humble story from a business perspective to find out why it’s so important for both beings and brands to learn ‘how to story’…

It sounds like a strange admission for someone who works in the business of helping others to refine and articulate their business or brand proposition, but it’s only fairly recently that I realised that the many facets of my work – creative writing, copywriting, PR consultancy, media presenting and performing – were tied together with one common thread: storytelling.

Storytelling is an obsession and fascination that started very early for me, enthralled by my grandmother’s natural ability to have us hanging on her every word as she regaled the tales of her childhood and youth. Sadly she’s no longer around to ask how much of them were actually true, but it doesn’t really matter because each one had a beginning, a middle and an end, and every one was told with varying degrees of drama, humour, plot, characters, sometimes props, and always an emotional connection. Of course I didn’t realise all of this at the time, that’s something only years of experience and reflection as a writer have helped me to understand, and I now start to see how her masterclasses of making a story can be transferred into my working life and shared with brands and businesses.

But some of this reflection got me thinking: Storytelling is most definitely an art, but is it a science too? Of course there are the elements, such as those just mentioned, that every story to needs to have to work, but is it as formulaic and prosaic as the many books on the subject of story will have you believe?

I needed another expert in the field and thankfully I knew where to turn. Sita Brand is a legend in the storytelling world, and I had the good fortune to meet her several years ago and work with her on one of her many passions – the Settle Storytelling Festival, based in the beautiful town nestled in the Yorkshire Dales that Brand now calls home.

Sita created the festival and her business Settle Stories, which also works with brands and businesses on workshops and mentoring, to provoke, inspire and broaden horizons. Certainly for her it seems it is about the emotional connections rather than a scientific formula that can be studied and replicated, but it’s definitely an art form that can be learned.

Sita explains her passion for stories and where that comes from: “Stories have a way of drawing people together more deeply. Standing between two worlds as an Indian and English woman, I know how our lives are enriched when we bring different cultures together. When we understand each other, we live in peace with one another.”

The Settle Stories mission is to change the world through story, helping to increase respect and understanding between different cultures and one of their projects in development is described as ‘an inspiring call to adventure, a journey to celebrate everything momentous, awesome and transformatory about stories’. I recommend you look out for that next year.

But back to how you make a story, especially in this current climate of fake news. In my mind, authenticity is the real key to a great story – the truth will always out so learning how to adapt and shape it in a way that shares your message, and tell it in a few different ways if needed (variations of the truth are always available) is where the real skill in storytelling lies.

What I recommend to people I work with comes down to this: Be authentic, be truthful, be honest, be brave in the story you share. We’re all human after all, and he more honest you are about yourself the more people will be able to relate to your story and connect.

And look to the art of storytelling rather than the commercial formulas that are bandied around. Life often imitates art as we know, but maybe, when it comes to storytelling, it’s time for business to imitate art as well.

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