13 Oct 2011

5 Storytelling Tips to Create Engaging Content

5 Storytelling Tips to Create Engaging Content

A couple of years ago while at a conference in California, I met Simon Kelly, the Chief Enthusiasm Officer at Story Worldwide. We sat on the same content marketing panel. At one point, he leaned over to me and handed me his business card. I took one look, and knew it was a keeper. It stood out so much that to this day I still have it tacked above my credenza. The funny thing is the back of his business card faces out. You want to know why?

Because printed on the back it says:

Business Card Ideas

Whenever I look over at this card, I smile and remind myself that it’s all about telling a great story. People love stories. When we share our lives with one another, it’s through stories. We meet over coffee to talk about what happened to us at work; we call our friend up to tell a story about our fun night last night. Compelling stories persuade and even have the power to change deeply-held beliefs. To really engage your audience, deliver stories that they want to read, watch or hear — stories they want to be a part of and will enjoy so much, that they will be inspired to share them.

“Story is more powerful than the brand, the best story wins. I am — simply, unabashedly, out loud, screaming, and shouting — saying, focus on the quality of your storytelling. Turn that complex idea into storytelling. And if you don’t believe me, talk to an effective trial lawyer, even if she or he works on complex commercial cases.”

—Tom Peters, Management Guru, Sept 3, 2010

One of the fundamental goals of content marketing, of all advertising, is to create fans that will spread your stories for free, lowering your marketing expenses. Content that appeals to our social nature is ideal for storytelling, so find the stories about your employees, your company, your services and your products and tell them! Below are five tips to help you improve your storytelling.

  1. Your Personal Experiences:

    One of the best places to start is by turning personal experiences into stories. This requires a bit of confidence and maybe a little imagination, however once you work through turning a couple of your real life experiences into stories, it will start to come naturally. Of course sharing these experiences requires you to be willing to let them become public. After you become comfortable with it, you should work to build a small collection that you can adapt to complement and enhance presentations on a range of topics.

  2. Observe Presenters Telling Stories:

    Professional presenters regularly use stories in their presentations and content. When you see a professional presenter, think about their use of stories. There are many reasons to use stories including; provide humor, make points memorable, identify with the particular audience, inspire people to act, build a shared vision, and to relieve tension.

  3. Learn What Makes A Good Story:

    By observing others work, take the time to learn what makes a good story, one that people can learn from and relate to.  You might look for the following; it is told well, the presenter is sincere, it fits the occasion, and the audience can relate to the story.

  4. Constantly Collect Stories:

    Stories abound in our everyday world. Keep a notebook (electronic or otherwise) to keep track of your ideas and stories you like.  When you know a good story, sooner or later you will find a way to include it into a presentation.  Here is a great post covering 29 ways to stay creative.

  5. Use Video:

    If you have been following this blog for any time at all, you know we highly encourage the use of video.  Check out this story about the power of words:

Would love to hear of some great “story telling” examples out there!

Note: the above is excerpted from my book Accelerate! Grow Your Business Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing. It is a 250 page, step-by-step guide that any organization can follow to kick their content marketing strategy into high gear. Buy your copy today!


  • Jon Thomas (@Story_Jon) Oct 13, 2011


    Fantastic post and of course I love the shout out to my colleague, Simon. Our business cards always get a chuckle. I actually use it during presentations and speaking engagements as an ice breaker in the beginning of my session. Usually only about 25% correctly choose which story is false.

    Your tips are right on as well, particularly what MAKES a good story. I recently read “Tell to Win,” and just before that Nancy Duarte’s “Resonate.” Both really opened up my understanding of the structure of a powerful story. We may have been telling stories our whole life, but once you understand what makes a great story you can start *correctly* infusing them into your marketing narratives.

  • Arnie Kuenn Oct 13, 2011

    Hi Jon, thanks for stopping by. Simon’s card is about 3 feet away from me still tacked up for me to see. You know I still don’t know the answer to Simon’s though. Maybe he will visit here and let us all know :-)

  • Dean Mercado Oct 13, 2011

    Hey Arnie… fabulous post and so spot on! Absolutely love the examples of the back of the business card and that video really drives home your point on the power of great storytelling!

    Heading over to Amazon to pick up a copy of your book now… thanks!

  • Raf Stevens Oct 14, 2011

    Hello Arnie, Great to see my Prezi presentation on storytelling in your fantastic article. Thanks. Did you know I just finished my book on the power of corporate storytelling ‘No Story, No Fans’?

  • Arnie Kuenn Oct 14, 2011

    @Dean – thanks for picking up Accelerate! – hope you like it!

    @Raf – thanks for stopping by and for the great offer to our readers! We will spread the word.

  • Raf Stevens Oct 14, 2011

    Your welcome!

  • Joshua Zamora Oct 17, 2011

    Great Article Arnie! “Chief Enthusiasm Office” LOL I love that and definitely story telling has been used from the beginning of time from putting our kids to sleep to entertaining a crowd of people.

  • Arnie Kuenn Oct 24, 2011

    @Sue – just click on the “watch on YouTube” link. When you get to YouTube, grab the embed code.

  • Dale Berkebile Oct 26, 2011

    This is a great article. You know I once started to write a comment on a blog. I did not know the company, but I was highly impressed with their content. So I shared a few thoughts, shared a few tips and tweeted the article to my thousands of followers and the next thing you know the writer contacted me. We became friends and started helping each other promote and publish remarkable content. It was fun! It was a win-win relationship that was started by a creative thought, that turned into a great article. The article inspired a comment, which started a conversation. This in turn built a powerful relationship. In the end it was all due to a story.

    What’s your story?

    Where will a story take you or your business?