Why details in stories matter

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Details in stories matter. That includes storytelling in marketing. Stories need to give us details that engage us, that bring back a point and that help us remember the story. And not just in marketing, but also internally to get leadership and stakeholder support for projects.

story with detailsA good example of showing details in stories comes to you from my days as a journalist and when I conducted an investigation on traffic tickets.

I learned that if people fought their ticket there was a 50-50 chance that their fine was reduced or the ticket was dismissed. Of course, the newspaper article didn’t stop there and shared stories from people who actually did that. I found those stories by looking through the tickets, reading them, thinking about what was happening and how it all fit together.

In other words: I had to dig a bit deeper to get the details. Brand storytellers have to do the same. Ask more questions, talk to the right people, look at the right documents.

The Example

One of those stories involved an Iowa woman who told the judge that she could not have been speeding because she was driving by a church and always says a prayer when she drives along that stretch of road. Had she been speeding she would not have had enough time to finish the prayer, she said.

The Details

I share this story with the details above verbally during presentations and training sessions on how to tell a good story. I then ask the audience: “What did the church look like? Who can describe it to me?”

Usually a handful of hands go up.

“It was a white church, near the street.”

“It was built with bricks, brown. The front door was white.”

Other descriptions follow. None match up, of course. How could they? I didn’t describe what the church looked like. I don’t actually know what it looked like.

How do people know? I’ve asked groups this and typically the answer goes something like this:

“That was just how I pictured it.”

I bet you can share this story tomorrow with your coworkers. It’s easy to remember because it has the right details.

Keep the audiences in mind

Some audiences need different details. I was reminded of this at a workshop I gave a while back.

To show the power of stories, I asked everyone to share a story. Usually, people start connecting and start friendly conversations. Stories are powerful and build relationships after all.

At this presentation, one of the men shared the story of a child being born. He shared how the couple had tried for a while and finally was able to have a child. He even described in detail how he first met the new baby.

I told him “Congratulations. Thank you for sharing.” Others in the room were smiling.  But did he share all relevant details for this group?

I turned to the rest of the group – many of them women and I asked: “Who here is wondering what the baby’s gender is?”

He didn’t mention it, but, many in the group nodded yes.

“And who all really wants to know the baby’s weight and size?”

Again. Most everyone!

He was more than willing to share this information now. But why wasn’t it shared in the first place? We discussed what just happened. Different people think about different details.

As we are sharing stories, it’s important to remember our audience. Sometimes, they want different details than the ones that we personally might care about. It’s always good to put ourselves in their shoes. Sometimes our audiences might tell us what details they missed and want to hear – like was the case here. Many times, however, we won’t get that feedback. When we do, following up can positively impact the relationship.

Picking the right details to share with audiences can make our connections stronger.

Whatever you do as a business, stories can help you build the brand, create future cash flow and stay connected to your consumers. To do that we do need details in our stories.