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4 Pitfalls of Storytelling and How to Avoid Them

David Aaker

Companies must avoid four common missteps when making stories the cornerstone of their communications​​​

During a volunteer session at San Francisco-based nonprofit St. Anthony’s Dining Room, I heard many facts, but also a story that I’ve repeated dozens of times: A client left his engineering job to care for his wife, who had cancer. Their insurance ran out, and by the time she died six years later, he had sold his home, depleted all his savings and seen his engineering skills wither. He needed St. Anthony’s. It could happen to anyone. The statistics faded quickly, but the story stayed with me.

In this digital age, brand perceptions and relationships affect how customers, employees, partners and others evaluate their options when making a purchase, applying for a job or collaborating. It is critical for brands to communicate not only their offerings but also the purpose and heart of the organization. This task is made difficult by limited budgets, a glut of content and audiences that are disinterested and skeptical. 

Signature stories—authentic narratives that intrigue, involve and communicate who you are—break through distractions and disinterest to change perceptions, inspire and generate memories. Hundreds of studies have shown that stories are two to three times more effective at conveying a message than reciting facts. 

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David Aaker is vice chairman of Prophet, the author of Aaker on Branding and a member of the Marketing Hall of Fame.