Why details in stories matter

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Details in stories matter. That includes storytelling in marketing. Stories need to give us details that engage us, that hone 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.

[Tweet “Stories work best when they have the right details.”]

story with detailsA good example of showing details in stories comes to you from my days as a journalist 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 have shared 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. We don’t know if they match. 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.”

[Tweet “Stories with details are easy to remember.”]

I bet you can share this story tomorrow with coworkers. It’s easy to remember because it has the right details. It can be visualized. Successful corporate stories must do the same and can if the right details are included.

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 with their neighbor. 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.

Asking yourself – or somebody else – a specific question can help you come up with a story idea. Stories help us tell organizations’ and brands’ stories. Stories, in turn, help us connect with people who care about what we do and can increase customer bases.

Read next:Why a company style guide is necessary for good content

Why do I need a story in the first place?

More and more companies are publishing their own content  Content marketing is hopping in 2022.

That’s because  stories work because people can relate to them and stories are much easier to remember than data. (Though data certainly can help a good story be great if used to tell the story.)

Chances are you will probably run across stories in your daily work that would help share your organization’s story publicly. That’s where many details can come from. We need to pay attention to them.

But how do you spot those stories?

Asking the right questions to get your story started

Journalists come up with stories all the time. Sometimes they run across them almost by mistake. They pay attention as they are going through their daily lives.

“I wonder what’s going on over there. Let me go find out …”
“Why are people doing this?”

Sometimes they happen because an editor asked a very specific question:

“I saw a picture of public official A and it looks like he lost a lot of weight. Would they let us do a story on the success?”


“Anything newsworthy listed in the police log today?”

Specificity can help you find stories, even if you aren’t a journalist but your organization has started to share its authentic success stories.

Some questions to consider to help spot stories:

  • What happened today that stood out to me?
  • Did something surprise me today?
  • What will I share with a friend or significant other tonight?
  • Of all the things that happened today which one made the biggest impact on my organization?
  • What was on my team’s agenda today?
  • What’s the most important and urgent project right now?

Some of the answers to these probably couldn’t or shouldn’t be published. The answers might include confidential information. And that’s OK. You don’t have to share those pieces. Even journalists don’t report everything they run across. But it’s a starting point to come up with stories that an organization might consider sharing publicly and with details.

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