Storytelling for Impactful Communication

Back in 2016, I wrote a post hereabout the importance of storytelling. “Facts are boring. Stories are compelling,” I said. I explained briefly that public relations professionals succeed when they can develop a compelling story with a clear beginning, middle and end. Stories are ultimately about people, and reporters know that the human angle engages readers and brings them in.

A few days ago, my friend John Buchanan, senior communications manager at the law firm Sheppard Mullin, published an article in Marketing the Law Firm magazine that starts with these points and develops them further and more deeply. John goes beyond PR and press releases, emphasizing that all types of law firm content, all types of marketing materials, should depend on storytelling to capture an audience.

Drawing on psychological and anthropological research, John wrote, “Storytelling is as old as humankind itself. Since the beginning of time, people have told stories and it seems that not only can storytelling be intellectually and emotionally fulfilling, it has a physical impact on the brain.”

John emphasizes that good stories rely on memorable characters, feature some sort of conflict, thrive on details, and get to the point very quickly. These characteristics may not be the first thing you think of when you think of law firm marketing materials, but they should be.

John gives practical and actionable advice for how to use these techniques in a law firm. For example, he notes that since all memorable stories have interesting characters, a law firm marketer needs to “make sure that you feature noteworthy characters in your content. Generic references (e.g., ‘a large multinational computer manufacturer’) will make audiences flip to the next page, but mentioning ‘Apple, the first U.S. company to be worth $1 trillion’ will engage them and begin the process of drawing them into your story.”

Just as important, John says, is to practice, practice, practice. One way of becoming a good storyteller, he says, is to read – a lot. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a blog post, a news article, or whatever, but he says short stories are probably the best thing to read to enhance one’s storytelling ability.

John’s article is based on a podcast sponsored by the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) last year on “Storytelling in Law Firms.” (Full disclosure: I was a panelist on that podcast along with him.) The podcast was one of the most-watched that the LMA has ever undertaken, and I hope that John’s article receives similar popularity.