What does it mean to become part of someone else’s story?

Marketing is too often an exercise in blank firing. Content is created and fired out on blogs, social media, and company publications with no thought to who is going to read it, let alone act on it. Business storytelling involves hooking your audience in. You need to find that magic point where your story and their interests collide and then you create a new story which becomes part of theirs.

A diagram of two interlocking circles showing where your story and your customer's story collide

I’ve just come back from holiday. A glorious week in Dorset where the sun shone every day, my children played on the beach and collected fossils and we ate delicious lunches out. It shall henceforth be known as the holiday in which our youngest got soaking wet every day as he splashed fully clothed in the sea. We ended up having to buy an emergency second pair of shoes because water was pouring out of his boots.

This is my story. But it is also the story of all the wonderful businesses we met along the way.

It is the story of Berehayes Holiday Cottages, our home for the week. Lovely barn conversions with a swimming pool, on a farm with alpacas, nestled away down steep, winding, single-file country lanes. A perfect base for exploring and helping our 5-year-old go from clinging on to able to swim across the pool and back while diving to the bottom as he pretended to be an Ichthyosaur.

The Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast

It’s the story of Seaton Jurassic, an interactive museum where my children flew a time machine to explore the Jurassic sea. When I asked my 5-year-old what his favourite part of the holiday had been, it was this, and the stamps he put in the quiz he had to complete as he went around.

It is the story of The Anchor at Seatown, a lovely pub overlooking the sea, where we were very well fed.

Then there’s the Charmouth Heritage Centre where a paleontologist told my eager small dinosaur hunter all about the creatures who had lived there when the area was underwater. He saw the Ichthyosaur fossil David Attenborough helped to uncover and then went out onto the beach to find fossils of his own. Turning over a rock he found a piece of fossilized prehistoric wood. When our guide tapped it off he turn over the slice of rock to find two ammonites on the other side.

Attenborough's Sea Dragon: Ichthyosaur fossil

And there was Felicity’s Farm Shop, an Aladdin’s Cave of delicious produce. We experimented with different cheeses every time we went. The stock changed over the course of our week-long stay down the road. While this led to some disappointment (we couldn’t buy something again) it meant we experimented with different foods and there was always something new to try. One of the delightful finds was Summerdown Mint, from Hampshire, made from Black Mitcham peppermint which used to be commonly grown in the UK 100 years ago. Reintroduced by Sir Michael Colman 20 years ago, it’s divine.

Every business has stories to tell which intertwine with our own. What memories are you creating? 

Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch by emailing rachel@extance.co.uk or contact her on social media.

6 thoughts on “What does it mean to become part of someone else’s story?”

  1. Thanks Rachel. This is just great — I went to school in Dorset and spent quite a few summers further down / round the coast in Cornwall– so this brought back many fond memories. I’m now on the hunt for Black Mitcham peppermint. I love the way you frame it with the Venn diagram, too — enough with assertions of ambition and achievement; find the place where you can have a conversation, begin to tell a story together. One loose thread, maybe. You tease us at the end by bringing in memory. Can you say more about how stories and memories work together?

    • Yes it’s a tricky balancing act. Mine were slightly too young. They expected to find dinosaurs and also weren’t prepared for the patient sifting through sand and rock that’s needed for finding fossils.

  2. Hi Rachel, your holiday seems like a good time. I can tell you have cherished memories from it.

    You give wise advice in telling us that “Business storytelling involves hooking your audience in. You need to find that magic point where your story and their interests collide and then you create a new story which becomes part of theirs.” Essentially, the storytelling has to relate to the audience. You do that well, by the way!

    Your question at the end is a great conversation starter. Who is the audience for this blog?

  3. This was such a lovely way to make your point. I could really feel your joy coming through as you told about your holiday. It reminded me about a “marketing” video I saw recently that was all about the company becoming part of the family’s story: https://youtu.be/Z8rqsJ9s6Fg

    The only part I wish I had more of here was a bit more about where to begin or where to look to start to take action on your assertion of connecting our business’s stories to our customers’. What’s the first step? How do I know if I’m doing it?

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