Does your website’s Our Story page (or sub-section of your About page) tell a story? Or does it act more like an About page, telling us what you do, what you make, who you serve and why that’s unique?
Not that there’s anything wrong with an About page. In fact, it’s really important to have one. Sometimes your prospects just want a stripped-down, plain-English description of who you are. They don’t want to wade through a bunch of hifalutin language to get there. So give them an About page.
But don’t get your About and Our Story pages mixed up. There’s a big difference.
Whereas About pages give us “just the facts” (albeit always in your brand voice and tone and never using stiff language and industry jargon), Our Story pages tell the inspiring narrative of the people behind the facts. If About pages speak to the head, Our Story pages speak to the heart.
Why telling a story matters
Do you even need an Our Story page? If you subscribe to the notion that humans are wired for story, you do. According to storyteller, author and story researcher Kendall Haven, stories improve reading comprehension, motivate readers and listeners to pay attention, and help people process, absorb, remember and recall information. And who doesn’t want customers to remember you?
Okay, you say, it’s easy to tell a story if your founder started the business in a garage with a loan from his grandmother and, after years of knocking on doors and tinkering into the wee hours, built it into a market leader. But your company’s history is not so simple or straightforward. You don’t really have a story.
I’m here to say that you do.
And you can tell that story if you understand what makes a story tick.
How to make 'Our Story' real
Here are six ways to turn your Our Story page into a real story.
1. Make it personal. We like reading about people, not faceless institutions or nameless, abstract concepts. Take this example from the start of a real company’s Our Story page. “At XYZ, we develop products that help customers visualize the impact of their …” While I admire this company and its products, it could grab attention and engage our story-wired brains better if it introduced a real person into its copy.
Every story needs a hero or protagonist. This person can be you. It can be the founder or inspirational leader of your company. It can be a customer. Good stories put a face on your brand.
By giving us a flesh-and-blood real character, we get someone we can cheer for. They in effect become stand-ins for our selves. We put our feet in their shoes. And we want them to succeed.
Great example: Marie Catrib’s
2. Give the hero a goal. A character has to want something. Put a character together with a goal, and your story begins to take shape. The bigger the goal, especially if it’s one we share, the more engaged we become.
Let’s say you make products that help people who manage commercial buildings to control their energy use. Sure, it’s important to tell people what you make and why it’s the best on the market. I get that. But, to tell a story, find someone who embodies your mission. Maybe it’s the founder who had a vision for a different kind of company. Tell an origin story about how the company started. Maybe it’s a customer who suffered runaway energy costs until she found your product. Tell a problem-solution story. Maybe it’s an employee (that would be refreshing!) who is the personification of everything your company stands for. Tell an inspirational story of your values in action.
3. Throw obstacles in the way. No conflict, no story. Some companies leave out the hard parts, thinking it’s better to present a sunny image at all times. That’s a mistake. The harder the hero’s goal, the more determined to overcome the odds, the more we care. Classic heroes fight monsters, scale mountains, swim oceans and brave bullets. Maybe your hero’s battles were fought breaking beakers in laboratories, pounding the pavement or pitching studio executives. Doesn’t matter. By relating the times our hero failed, and how she responded to those setbacks, we’ll cheer even more for the hero to succeed.
Great example: Blue Bottle Coffee
4. Give it stakes. What if the hero fails? Sure, the fate of humanity as we know it may not be up for grabs, but what about the fate of your customers? What would the world have looked like if they didn’t have your amazing company to help them?
Fun example: Flutter
5. Make it real. Set the scene with a few well-chosen details. Was it a dark and stormy night? Was the hero nearly overcome with a gut-wrenching fear in the belly? You don’t have to throw in a novel’s worth of setting. With just a few well-curated details, people will sketch in the scene on their own, making it their story and becoming more engaged.
6. Resolve the conflict. Stories satisfy us because they resolve problems. We feel a visceral sense of relief. The Greeks called this catharsis, meaning a release of tension or anxiety. For your company, the resolution is when your hero discovered the secret sauce that is your unique value proposition, your reason for being.
The Our Story page is a great opportunity for your organization to engage customers and prospects. Use these classic story elements to draw them in, make an emotional connection, and put a real human face on your company.