I remember how back in the days when I was a young child, I would cling to my grandmother’s lips when she talked about her childhood. She was born in 1928 in Germany, and she grew up there during World War II. I was about 8 years old when she first started telling me her stories. By the time I was old enough to take classes in World History, I felt I knew pretty much all about life in WWII, after all, my granny had told me all about it. Of course, I didn’t. Yet, it was hard for me to go by the books. I remember how I’d show her chapters in my history book, and she would tell me those “stories” in her words.
It was much easier to understand the correlation between events and to memorize dates when she told me about them. Naturally, her stories were emotional and to some point even exciting. She had been there, after all, and lived through a time that changed our world in a drastic way. While the schoolbooks were boring me with facts and figures, to me, her stories made history come to life. That’s the power of storytelling!
As a translator specializing in marketing, I started using the concept of storytelling a few years ago, rather by coincidence than by conscious decision. I came across an app that goes by the name of Medium.com. It makes it easy to spread an idea, a story, a thought. While I run several blogs, I thought Medium would be a great way to reach a more diversified audience. And so I published my first story there, and I quickly became aware of the power of storytelling.
Of course, we can use our own blogs to tell stories. Even notes on our Facebook pages can be used to publish stories. It really doesn’t matter where we publish them as long as we are aware that we can publish them to market our services.
9 reasons to tell stories
There are a few good reasons why we should tell stories, rather than spreading abstract information about our causes. Here’s just a few, and this list is certainly not conclusive. By means of storytelling, we can
- wrap facts into emotions,
- demonstrate our writing skills,
- share our knowledge,
- build an audience,
- spark people’s curiosity about us and our services,
- entertain our audience,
- build a positive reputation,
- bring across our core values, and
- engage with the online community.
1. Wrap facts into emotions
I guess my comparison in the opening paragraph pretty much describes what I mean. Wrapping your say into emotions triggers images in the reader’s mind and makes information more memorable. I suppose it has something to do with our left and right sides of the brain when stories trigger brain activity in the rational and creative parts of the brain.
2. Demonstrate our writing skills
Especially when it comes to translations in marketing or literature, potential clients love to see whether or not we master writing as a skill. Can we paint pictures with words? Can we trigger emotions? Are we on par with grammar and our target language in general?
3. Share our knowledge
Telling stories is a great way to impart knowledge. I have a very personal stance on sharing it. For one, I love to teach, because it broadens my own horizon. Secondly, I believe that in our profession, sharing knowledge is key for the entire industry. There are things about our business that are not taught in universities and that can only be acquired by either trial and error, or by listing to or reading it from others who’ve acquired their knowledge by autodidactic learning, taking courses, or who’ve succeeded after going through trial and error themselves. The latter can be quite painful, so why not spare others from it? I am not implying that we share our own personal business strategies, but I do believe that we can all get by a whole lot better with a little help from our colleagues.
4. Build our audience
If we can manage to draw people in, they are more likely to spread the word about our digital content and us. Let’s forget about the LOLs and ‘memes’ and look at what article or blog post you shared last. I’m sure it was something you thought was beneficial to your friends and colleagues, right? Thus, every time you publish something worth sharing, your audience will grow.
5. Spark people’s curiosity in us and our services
Why did we become translators? In most cases, the answer will be that we find it simply exciting. We learn while we work, and if we’re up to it, we even learn with every new project. Stories can help us make our love for our work contagious. And trust me, clients love service providers who love what they do.
6. Entertain our audience
Nothing bores us more than a translator (or any other service provider or business consultant) who constantly repeats how great they are and why clients should work with them because they are the best. In a digital world, there’s so much content out there that it is hard to hit the surface. Good storytellers, however, are far more likely to actually reach beyond the pond of translators and reach the readers they want to attract. Besides, storytelling is great for SEO. But that’s another story.
7. Build a positive reputation
Assuming that the stories we write are true—to the point where they underline our specialization—we can definitely build a reputation as an expert translator in the respective field. A good story finds the balance between facts and entertainment, hence showing that you’re not trying to shower your readers with KBS (keyword bullshit), but rather with interesting information wrapped in something entertaining that is worth their time. A good story is not too short and not too long.
A fun (!) tool to have a look at in this respect: BlaBlaMeter. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it is usable or not.
8. Bring across our core values
Value is a word I hear a lot these days. With a plethora of service providers available, value is certainly one aspect that goes into the decision-making process, at least for direct clients when they buy translations. In at least 7 out of 10 times, new contacts will tell me that they’re asking me for a quote because they believe that we share the same values when it comes to doing business together. I am certain that some of my stories are the reason they believe so.
9. Engage with the online community
As with any online content, storytelling can whip up a neat conversation, no matter where you publish your story. We recently published a series on different types of translations that require different levels of quality. It’s the 50 Shades Of Banana series and it was fun discussing it on Twitter. I also try to share my presentations online or use them as “storyboards” for future publications. It’s my way of re- and upcycling the content I’ve created in the past. Keep in mind: Any engagement with the online community needs content. Engagement means likes, shares, comments, tweets, references, recommendations…
What can we tell stories about?
I am not sure if there is a real strategy behind creating stories that would suit every person. I can only speak for myself. In my case, it’s a purely intuitive process. Sometimes the trigger is a conversation I had with a colleague, as it was the case with 50 Shades Of Banana. Sometimes it’s an encounter with a client. Sometimes it’s just a flood of random thoughts that I try to get in order by writing them down. Writing is my go-to remedy in times of stress. It’s how I vent my cerebral system.
There’s a book I’d like to recommend. I am sure it will serve you well for some inspiration. It’s called 642 Things to Write About* and it’s a great collection of possible titles or topics for your stories.
Wrapping it up
For a more formal approach to storytelling, you will find a lot of information on the Internet. There are dozens of tools and apps out there. You just have to go look and try them. I’d really love to read your stories, provided they are written in German or English. So please do leave a link in the comments for me.