WHAT'S A STORYBANK AND HOW TO START ONE!
We’re constantly hearing and reading about storytelling in business and how we need to do more of it!
“Your audience loves stories,” they say.
“People connect with stories,” they say.
“Tell a story and you can’t go wrong,” they say.
But what really makes a good story? How can we use storytelling effectively in our businesses to help us achieve our goals? And… what if our lives are BORING and we don’t feel like we have any stories!?
As I was researching the topic of creating a story bank, I found a lot of information out there on how to create story banks for non-profit organizations, but I didn’t find a lot that applied to entrepreneurs and business owners.
So, I decided to compile some resources and write one myself!
This blog is a conglomeration of ideas I’ve found on how to start a story bank for your own and different types of stories you might consider including. It’s not, by any means, a comprehensive list of all the stories you could share. And just an FYI, it’s not a guide to storytelling structure but I did share a few resources that can help you with that if you struggle to piece together a story effectively and with impact.
What’s a Story Bank?
A storybank is a collection of narratives you can tap into when creating content for your business. It could live in a notebook, a Google doc, the Notes app on your phone, a voice memo tool, or wherever you like to jot down ideas that you plan to hash out later.
(Sometimes I even email them to myself so I don’t forget to add them to the bank!)
Personal example: I have two documents in my Google docs, one’s titled “Storybank for EA Business” and the other is, “Stories by Age”. The business one is just a random mish-mosh of things that happen to me or stories I come across I want to share and the stories by age are something I add to and build out frequently as memories pop into my head from childhood, etc.
One thing I find helpful is to ask yourself HOW you want to use the stories – what do you want to do with them? Where will you share them?
I tend to use a lot of my story bank stories for emails and podcast episodes. So, as I’m mapping out my high-level content plan for the month, I often plug in a story I want to share right into that document itself. This might come from the story bank, or it might just be fresh on my mind. But it allows me to capture ideas that are specifically related to the content I’m working on.
There are so many different ways to go about creating one and how you organize it, so I’ll leave the logistics to you to decide on, depending on your needs and goals.
The key is to keep the stories somewhere you REMEMBER and can easily access, and to tap into them FREQUENTLY when creating your content.
Reverse-Engineering – No Matter Which Way You Slice It
When you’re creating a story bank, you can either start by beginning with the end in mind or start at the beginning and figure out the end later. Confusing, I know.
What do I mean?
You might choose to sit down and map out all your services, calls to action, events, offerings, business pillars, content buckets, most talked topics, etc. FIRST and then fill in what stories help to support these endeavors.
You may sit down and develop story ideas first, without deciding yet where they go, and then take those stories and work on them later to guide people to the next steps.
If you decide to start with the end in mind, sit down and list out the following:
- The types of clients you work with (who are they?)
- How do you help your clients (what services do you offer?)
- The names of some of your favorite clients (what problem did you help them solve?)
- Any additional resources you offer as a business owner? (ie. do you have a podcast, blog, Facebook group, freebie, etc.)
- Events, courses, workshops, etc. you promote
With this list, you’ll have the foundation for your story bank. You can use each category and think of stories surrounding them that answer:
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
- Every client’s success is a story
- Every client mistake is a story
- Every review on your product or service can be part of a story
- Things you decided to add to your offerings and services have a story behind why
- Events, courses, and workshops have a story behind why THIS and why NOW
Put a mental pin in this concept, because I’ll share a few common types of business stories you might want to include in your story bank in a bit, but before we get into that, let’s see what happens if we chose the adventure of starting with the story piece first:
You’re FULL of stories. The key is to pull them out and then craft them in a meaningful way that helps bring out the message you want to inspire.
Storybank #1) Age Increments
This is a favorite of mine! You will need to sit down and write out your age in increments of five years, from zero to the present day.
0-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-36…etc. etc.
What happened during each of these periods of your life that you can remember? How can you relate it to who you are, who you help, and what you do today? It might sound a tad far-fetched, I know and maybe you’re thinking to yourself… Emily, how on earth does my childhood have anything to do with my business goals?
Here’s a super duper short version of one from 0-5 as an example:
My mom always made the BEST birthday cakes when I was a kid. When I was four, I got a Cinderella cake, complete with the coach she rode to the ball, pulled by regal white horses. My mom also asked us all what dinner we wanted for our birthdays, which was usually lasagna or macaroni and cheese. We grew up in Maine and weren’t exactly the wealthiest family. So when I made the request on my fifth birthday for clams to be served at my birthday dinner, my parents gave me a choice – “Do you want clams or a birthday cake?”
How is a child supposed to choose!? I opted for the clams. Lo, and behold, it was the best birthday ever. You don’t have to have a birthday cake for it to be a birthday!
Moral: your marketing and visibility efforts do not have to look like anyone else’s. They don’t have to look normal, and they don’t have to fit in any sort of box. Choose what works for YOU and what you love!
I have tons of others like this, most of which are unformed fully and don’t have a moral yet, but they will when I pull them back out!
Note: If you’ll find this story excavation exercise too painful, traumatic, or otherwise disturbing, don’t do it! The last thing I want to do is conjure up things that you’re trying to move past.
Storybank#2) Story Ideas through Prompts
One of my FAVORITE books for writing prompts (and general writing practice tips) is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. In the chapter titled “A List of Topics for Writing Practice”, she offers 15 fantastic writing prompts that help you to unlock the stories within. Here are a few of my favorites:
- “Begin with ‘I remember’. Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that. Just keep going. Don’t be concerned if the memory happened five seconds ago or five years ago.”
- “Take something you feel strongly about, whether it is positive or negative, and write about it as though you love it.”
- “Write about swimming, the stars, the most frightened you’ve ever been, reading and books that have changed your life, a teacher you had…”
There are ample resources online on writing prompts and you can start there for your story generation if you want!
Storybank #3) Story Ideas in Your Everyday Life
Personally, I can’t go to the grocery store without bumping into a story. I find them almost everywhere I go by seeking out the unique perspective in everyday life. If you think your life is boring and you have no stories to tell from it, think again. My life is as boring as it gets and I can turn a bagger inefficiently putting my groceries in the bag at Market Basket into a lesson that relates to my writing business and why you shouldn’t cram too much into any one piece of content.
If you want more tips on turning your boring life into cool stories, plus how to make the ever-elusive segue work for you smoothly, check out Laura Belgray of The Talking Shrimp’s blog on it HERE.
Types of Stories to Include in your Storybank and Share in Your Business
- Purpose, vision, and your big WHY stories. Why did you start your business? What’s your mission? When did you get this passion and vision?
- Failure and success stories. When have you succeeded beyond your wildest dreams? When have you failed? What did you learn and how can it help others grow and learn from your mistakes and successes?
- Client/Customer stories. Who did you help? What were they struggling with before? How did you help? What’s their NEW story?
- Your founder/origin story. HOW did you start your business? What obstacles did you overcome? What brought you to where you are today?
If you want more information on four types of stories to include in your marketing, check out Kindra Hall’s Book Stories that Stick or listen to our podcast together HERE.
One more tip to finding stories for your Storybank!
Remember that so much power in storytelling is in sharing your personal experience as a human being. Often, what you’re going through, others are as well! Experiencing the fullness of life in thought, feeling, and presence can help you to tap into the stories all around you and help others relate.
If you’re feeling it or have felt it, there’s a really good chance other people are too!
What to Do With Your Stories
SHARE THEM! Practice with them!
You can use your stories in podcast episodes, live videos, written content, blogs, emails, social media posts, and more!
Start weaving more storytelling into your marketing materials and see where it takes you!
- Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller – I’m not a raving fan of his marketing MO, but the book does effectively show you how important it is to make the customer the hero and breaks down how to do so.
- The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo – DeSalvo helps explore the creative process on deeper levels as you get to know yourself and your story more fully.
👉🏻 ME! I can help you take the stories inside you and craft them into impactful, memorable, and fresh content! I provide done-with-you and done-for-you content writing services for women entrepreneurs with a big message who are ready to let their voices be heard!