Why ‘A Dalmatian ate my burrito’ holds the secret to brilliant business storytelling?

September 18, 2017

“A dog ate my lunch,” my client Jen recently tweeted. She then replaced it with, “A Dalmatian ate my burrito,” and Twitter immediately exploded! People loved it. Why?

What separated those two tweets and transformed “ho hum” into “ha ha?” The magic happened when she was specific―a Dalmatian (not just any dog) and a burrito (not just a generic lunch).

Being specific is the key to good business storytelling. Relating a specific moment in time, a specific event, a specific person. There―have I said the word “specific” enough times?

This sounds easy but is a stumbling block for many professionals when using business storytelling. We are often good with the abstract and the general. Yet, for your story to resonate, it has to be concrete and specific.

JFK, the president of America in the 1960s, nailed this when he said: “We want to put a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth by the end of the decade.” Very concrete and specific. Dan and Chip Heath, in their bestseller, Made to Stick ponder what JFK would have said if he were a modern-day CEO. They think he probably would have said, “Through strategically targeted aerospace initiatives and team-centered innovation…” (abstract and general).

Being specific, like the tweet above creates emotion (makes people feel something) and sensory data (paints a picture). People can visualize images in their mind’s eye centered around what you are saying. Being specific is the key to business storytelling success.

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