Not all content is a story

Anne Kalliomäki
Feb 24 · 3 min read

In the business world, the word ‘story’ has already been so overused that its meaning has become blurred. It seems that almost any content is called a story. When this happens, we forget what the storytelling fuss is all about in the first place.

We are losing our way. Big time. We are losing the real art of storytelling and the different ways we can use it to build business.

As a story designer, I believe I’d like to be the one to give the ‘emperor back his clothes’.

What the hell is this thing called a story anyway?

So, what is a story? A story often contains one or more of the following elements. However, we sometimes describe texts or services that have none of these elements as a story too.

  1. A story usually has a clear structure: beginning, middle, and end.
  2. A story has a chronology. A story is a continuous sequence of events (even though it might sometimes ignore time boundaries).
  3. A story contains both cause-and-effect relationships and a clear plot.
  4. From the storification perspective, a story functions as the red thread entwining all the company’s operations together.
  5. A story has distinct characters/actors (can also be a product, company, landscape, etc.)
  6. A story combines fact and fiction (it is dramatized, interesting and captivating)
  7. A story appeals to the emotions (humanity, meanings, a sense of discovery)
  8. A story appeals to different senses and comes to life through the senses (the use of adjectives and descriptions in texts, multisensory experiences during service encounters)

In business, no one story serves every situation

In business, a story can be one of the following:

  • Vision story (the future)
  • Background story (a company, product or service)
  • Creation story (history)
  • Service story (service flow in the eyes of the customer)
  • Customer story (customer’s background and motives)
  • Product story (the manufacturing process)
  • Reference story (recommendations)
  • Value story (why a product is valuable)

And finally, what is the story in storification?

In storification, we identify the core story of a company’s operations which is a mixture of fact and experience-inspiring fiction.

In storification, we use the core story to create a customer experience into a story experience. The goal is to produce a comprehensive individualized and captivating story experience.

In other words, the goal is to convert an entire business into story form, and in so doing, to create a competitive advantage.

In 2014, my book about Storification was published by Talentum in Finnish.

I interviewed many experts for my book, one of whom was Professor Alf Rehn. This is how he sees storification:

Many people probably think that the principal benefit of storification is that it offers the consumer ‘a little bit extra’ and that it is about creating experiences. To me, this is a very narrow and dull way to think. The way I see it, above all, storification creates a kind of narrative backbone for a company, a meaningful message that unites the company’s operations and brings employees together.

Organizations should have clusters of meaning, operational systems created around an idea and/or ideal: a powerful story is then the plaster that binds everything together. In other words, storification is really a central strategic operation, the way in which an organization’s deepest nature is made internally known and understood so that the company can be outwardly exceptional.

Alf Rehn, Professor, Åbo Akademi University

Anne Kalliomäki

Written by

I am helping business owners turn their customer experience into a story experience. @akalliom @tarinakone #storification #storyexperience #experiencedesign

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