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The Power of Story

A beautiful piece written by Gary Ross for Destination BC

We start this life hardwired for stories. Stories are how we file our memories, plan our futures, and make sense of the world. One of the first things a child says is: “Dad, tell me some data.”
Not! What the child says, of course, is, “Tell me a story.”
“Storytelling” has long been a marketing buzzword. But what, exactly, is a story?
Let’s start with what it isn’t. It isn’t boosterism. It’s not a video of a tourism stakeholder telling you how beautiful BC is and how much they love living here. That’s a testimonial.
As for what a story is, this isn’t exactly breaking news. Aristotle identified the key elements in his Golden Rules of Storytelling. In the marketing world these days, his wisdom has been largely overlooked.
In a nutshell, a typical story has a hero, a protagonist. The hero has a goal. She sets off on a journey to reach her goal. She encounters and surmounts obstacles and setbacks on the way to achieving it.
That’s it—that’s the essence of a story.
Homer’s Odyssey is an ancient story. Odysseus spends 10 years trying to get back to Ithaca after the Trojan War. He has to overcome everything from monsters to shipwrecks along the way.
A mystery novel is a story. The private eye has to figure out who the murderer is. En route to solving the crime she triumphs over crooks and dead ends and dirty cops.
Even a TV spot is a story. The heroes are the homeowners. Their goal is a greener lawn. They have to overcome scruffy weeds and fertilizers that just aren’t up to the task. Then the neighbour tells them about new, improved SuperGrow. Resolution achieved.
Once you start looking, you find stories everywhere.
Why are stories powerful? Because they activate a part of the brain that information alone does not. They create an emotional connection, not just an intellectual one. Listening to a story, you empathize. You relate to Odysseus, to the detective, to the homeowners, because you, too, have overcome challenges on your own journey. We all have.
Setbacks and missteps and failures are not shameful, they’re integral parts of your story. Don’t be embarrassed by setbacks. Instead, be proud of challenges you’ve overcome. Then find ways to turn your story into content that you can share with the world.
Stories are effective. They inspire and engage people in ways that conventional marketing and advertising do not.
People want to be told, not sold. So next time you engage with someone who’s planning a trip to BC, don’t give them a sales pitch.
Tell them your story.
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