Once upon a time, there was a buzzword that roamed throughout the land of marketing communications. Its name was Storytelling.

You may have heard the advice a time or twenty: “Sure, you’re a marketer/business communicator/PR pro, but you really need to think of yourself as a Storyteller!”

And you may have asked yourself, “What the heck does that even mean? Do I need to create conflict and resolution in this internal HR brochure? How do I work a denouement into this press release? Speaking of which … what is a denouement?!”

It’s true: Storytelling isn’t just for novelists and journalists. There’s room for great storytelling in business communications. But how? Communicators can get hung up trying too hard to turn everything into a story, and we’ve all seen the overreaching materials that can result. Every company tweet need not contain a beginning, middle and end. That product brochure on a new widget probably isn’t begging for a story arc.

Instead of thinking of everything you write as a would-be story, the trick is to weave tried-and-true storytelling techniques into materials where it makes sense — such as a blog, digital ad, annual report, executive speech, media interview or more.

Here are a few tips for infusing life and interest into your communications:

  • Build a bond: More than anything, storytelling is about making an emotional connection. Will my heart pound with excitement when I see the curves of your dealership’s new line of cars? Is your business solution going to help me sleep at night by removing aggravation and uncertainty from my company’s processes? Is your restaurant’s cornbread recipe based on a Southern trick like my grandma used? I want to hear about that.
  • Engage the senses: Let me see just how much more inviting your bank’s lobbies are than the competition. After all, great photos and videos are essential storytelling tools, too. The same goes for great design — whether in an inviting corporate brochure or the cutting-edge architecture in your new corporate headquarters. Stimulate the senses through your words and images: How do your hotel chain’s pillows and blankets feel on the skin? Will my loved one sleep better in your nursing home because you’ve invested in high-tech hospital equipment that doesn’t beep-beep all night until her ears are ringing?
  • Have some zip: Even in the most buttoned-up industries, there is room for some personality — so long as it’s true to your brand. I don’t want to feel like your writers were practicing their stand-up routine when I’m learning about your wealth management services. But that’s a great place to introduce relevant characters in your communications and to find relevant anecdotes that really make your message pop.

And so, Storytelling took its place in the communicators’ bag of tricks, bringing with it a sense of adventure and a penchant for personal connection. And they all lived happily ever after.