Author avatar

Jillian Kaplan

Storytelling to Create Collaborative Solutions

Jillian Kaplan

  • Aug 19, 2020
  • 5 Min read
  • 126 Views
  • Aug 19, 2020
  • 5 Min read
  • 126 Views
Management
Product Management
Product Discovery
Design Thinking

Introduction

Storytelling is truly an art. Many of us can write product requirements, white papers, blogs, or engineering documents outlining what a product or solution does. But can you tell a story? Telling a story keeps your customers engaged, helps them see where they could solve problems, and often prompt questions that lead to discussions that lead to sales.

How to Tell a Good Story

When you pick up a book and cannot put it down, why is that? Because you are being told a really good story. It is truly a skill to be able to tell a story in many different forms, including both video and writing.

Storytelling is hard to describe because it is not a process. Much of what we do in a technical profession has check boxes—as in "do this" then "do this"—and you can literally check boxes off in a processes. However, I am going to try to teach you how to tell a good story, and more importantly, what elements it includes.

Here are some elements of a good story:

  • Setting: Where is the story taking place?

  • Plot: What are we going to learn about?

  • Theme: Why do I care?

  • Timeline: when is this story taking place?

  • Ending: How will this help me solve my problem?

Be sure you include these things when you start to write a story. These questions and elements need to be included and answered to form a baseline for a story.

Now that you know what should be in the story, what should you consider when writing it? What should the story be from an audience perspective? How do you execute all of these elements in the outline above?

Here are some things that a story should be:

  • Educational

  • Entertaining

  • Memorable

  • Easy to understand

It’s easy to write something that is educational, and it’s easy to write something entertaining, but bringing these together is challenging. For example, if your product is not fun or sexy and something like a microchip—how do you make that both educational and entertaining? In this example, I would start by looking at what can be accomplished with this microchip. Work to make your customer visualize themselves using this chip and what it can do for them. Maybe they will be able to run their favorite applications together with lag, or maybe they can easily Facetime with their adorable grandchildren. The idea is to go beyond the what and get into the why.

Stories bring people together. They help you have a conversation and help customers know that you are connected to their goals and needs.

Storytelling to Solve Problems

We went over how to outline and execute on a story. How does this solve problems and increase collaboration? While the focus on storytelling is usually external, internal storytelling can help you to collaborate with your key stakeholders.

If you are developing a product or solution and you can help your internal stakeholders truly see how this can change the business for everyone from engineers to project managers to executives, you will be able to solve for more problems. Having the team's buy-in can be instrumental in solving open problems.

Storytelling and Collaboration

Marketers are usually the stakeholders that have the most skill in storytelling. After all, their job is to take all the technical requirements and information that is often hard to digest and make it easy for stakeholders and customers to understand. They need to tell a story about why this product should be sold (to the sales team) and in turn help the sales team storytell so customers understand why they need it.

If you are willing to work with marketing and product marketing closely during a launch, you will learn how to tell a good story. You can see them take all of your details and turn them into an easy-to-understand narrative. I encourage you to work alongside them as it’s a skill you can use. As a product marketer, you will write lots of technical documents like white papers and road maps, but you will likely also be asked to write blogs, solution briefs, and other non-technical documents that are customer-facing. These documents should tell a story, and this is a great way to learn how to do that.

I recommend you watch my Managing Product Marketing Course (app.pluralsight.com/library/courses/managing-product-marketing) to learn more about how to specifically work with product marketing as one of your stakeholders. Product marketers are likely your most skilled and trained stakeholders in storytelling and can really help you develop the story for your audience and customer.

Conclusion

We can all rattle off technical details and information about a product. But can you work with others and come up with a great story? This is a huge key differentiator as you work on your messaging and bring your product to market.

If you can tell a good story and connect people, you will be able to collaborate and solve problems for your customers and your stakeholders. Employees are your biggest differentiator and stakeholders and will be the ones aiding in telling a story. It is a skill that can be learned and developed over time.

Not only will storytelling differentiate your product and help you collaborate, it will also differentiate you. An excellent storyteller is hard to come by, and this is a wonderful skill for you and any stakeholder to become well versed in.

3