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The Power of Story on Blogs

The-Story-FactorOne book that I find myself delving into every six months or so is The Story Factor by Annette Simmonds.

She writes about a topic that is close to my heart – the power of storytelling as a way to be influential.

One of the points Annette makes early in her book that resonates with me most is that:

people don’t need more information – they need ‘faith’ and that stories have the power to birth faith and trust

Of course faith and trust are essential items of you want to be influential in your relationships with others.

We live in a world where we’re literally bombarded with information all day every day. There’s nothing wrong with information, or having a blog that is ‘informational’ in nature – but if you want to make an impression on people, be the type of blog that people tell their friends about, that people want to ‘journey’ with – you need something more and ‘story’ is one element that can bring this.

I won’t regurgitate Annette Simmonds whole book here but what she writes makes sense in a lot of settings – particularly for bloggers.

In her introduction Annette introduces six types of stories that help if you want to influence others:

  • “Who I Am” Stories
  • “Why I Am Here” Stories
  • “The Vision” Story
  • “Teaching” Stories
  • “Values-in-Action” Stories
  • “I Know What You Are Thinking” Stories

As I was rereading the book again today I realized that story is important on a blog in two ways. For starters there are ‘single stories’ and then there is ‘the story’ of a blog.

‘Single Stories’ are when you tell a story in a blog post – it might be the full post or part of it. I have written a little more about using stories in this way previously.

‘The Story’ of a blog goes beyond any single post and is where readers catch a glimpse behind the blog, see it’s development, feel drawn into some kind of relationship with it or ownership of it.

Single stories in posts can be great but it is the story of a blog that draws readers into a loyal relationship with it – it’s a powerful thing.

Do you use Story in your blog? How and when have you used it and what impact has it had?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. writer dad says:

    Every single post on my site is a story. It’s the only way I know how to write. I have valuable things to say, but I only know how to say them within the framework of a narrative. This works out well, though. From what I understand, my posts are always fun to read.

  2. Archit says:

    Not every time I use a story on my blog as it is not possible to makeup a story about what Google did to their search engine algorithm or what Yahoo! is doing with Yahoo Buzz as my blog is basically a tech blog.

    Nice article BTW! :)

  3. Benjamin says:

    I use stories a lot. Although more when speaking that when blogging. Something for me to change there. Something else about stories: They help us remember. The brain is much better at holding facts that are linked by a story, than by any other means. The whole “and then… and then…” thing creates movement and keeps interest too.

  4. For the last 8 years I have been a big fan of storytelling and its applications on marketing.

    At the end of the day, all marketing is storytelling in some way or other. All the best companies are using storytelling and all the market leaders got where they are, partly thanks to storytelling.

    Lasse Rouhiainen

  5. gina says:

    Being a person who can’t stand to read a blog without a storyline, I try my best to make sure all my posts have the story element. On my personal gardening blog that’s the one comment that I get most from people is that they appreciate the story element of the gardening posts which can be otherwise, umm, freakin boring!

    I tend to get data overload very easily so if I return to a blog it’s probably because it has the element of story.

    Great topic!

  6. Max Forlani says:

    Hi Darren,

    If I understood your post well, my personal blog would be categorised as “the story of a blog”, since it is basically the story of our lives.

    It starts with a series of 30 posts telling the story on how I ended up moving to Istanbul, finding a job, a girlfriend, getting married and now of us expecting our first child. Although the series, which is backdated, will end this week, the story will continue. Not in the least with preparing for the arrival of our child.

    So yes, The Forlanis can be categorised as a story blog I guess.

    Cheers,
    Max

    Btw: loved the pic of your son :-)

  7. Nextcovery says:

    I try to use stories in my blog. But in practice it’s very hard. For a story to be successful, the message has to spread by your readers on your behalf. This means your story should have a powerful message behind it. It doesn’t matters what you want to say, what matters is what your target audience wants to hear! If your audience do not like the concept of your story they’ll reject it.

    Recently I explored how we can use stories to create good website taglines. You can find this post at …
    http://nextcovery.com/website-development/how-to-choose-a-good-tagline-for-your-website/

  8. I think not many readers are interested to read ‘stories’ in a post, rather their mind would be searching for the ‘quick answers’ they want.

  9. Chris Lang says:

    Funny you should mention this subject as I just spent 2 hours on the phone with my favorite writer, Paul Myers. I am a programmer and Paul has apparently taken it upon himself to make me a decent writer.

    He spent two hours trying to explain to me the difference between connection and impact and how telling a story will completely change the way your articles are read or if they are read at all.

    What was the most interesting thing I learned? Well to you it may be this….

    Hemingway is in a bar. A guy bets him he can’t write a short story in 10 words or less. Hemingway jots this down on a cocktail napkin:

    For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

  10. Pangeran says:

    Yes, I use stories in my post.
    Sometimes it get out of topic that I need to edit it.
    SOmetimes I do it like a fairy tale or fables, sometimes I do it like a newspaper writing style…

  11. Faiqa says:

    As another comment suggests, the only way I know how to write is to tell a story. This can be challenging, though, because one has to walk that fine line of unnecessary self-deprecation (“nobody is interested or can benefit from the mundane experiences of my life”) and blatant egomania (“oh, no, trust me, you really *do* want to know which brand of toothpaste I use”).

  12. Shanel Yang says:

    I use stories probably in 90% of my posts. Only very short posts have no stories, or very long posts with mostly lists of quotes. Otherwise, I find stories absolutely necessary to illustrate and bring to life the lessons I’m teaching. : )

  13. Deepak says:

    I never used stories so far, but I will start using it from today. From now! Thanks for the tips :-)

  14. Jason Baer says:

    Another great book in this vein is Made to Stick by Chip Heath. Awesome stuff about the power of storytelling. My favorite example is the Jarrod Subway campaign. Great example of using a story to communicate a pretty dry point.

  15. I love these kinds of posts because I am able to hear a little bit more about the readers and their blogs.
    As far as story telling goes, I am working on incorporating stories into some of my posts but I also agree with Jumble Blogger that a lot of readers often just want quick advise, things that they can apply ‘right now’. But I think that a good balance of story telling mixed in with list posts and the like, is really key.
    My goal with my blog is to always give my readers something to keep them moving closer to their goals and dreams. Sometimes a story is appropriate and sometimes some good, practical advise is the way to go.

  16. Loved your insight here. We are all deluged by information overload, but humans are wired not to respond to mere facts. We are wired for story, and all of us who write for whatever reason will always do well to remember that.

  17. Matt says:

    Great post. I ordered a copy of the book.

  18. Graham says:

    Since my blog is about my travel experiences almost all of my entries contain stories. I generally use stories in one of three ways.
    1. As the main topic of the post.
    2. As an aside to illustrate a point.
    3. As a teaser to bait the reader for a story that I have yet to tell.

    Thank you for the book recommendation, I look forward to tracking down a copy and learning more about story telling.

  19. Dr. Cason says:

    No I don’t use stories enough. I have tons but never have thought much about it.

    Last week I did a little bit of a story- The Ugly Side of Being a Doctor and it was a huge hit.

    Funny because I wasn’t thinking of it that way. I just wrote from the heart and people responded. I guess that’s what people want to hear though.

    It’s certainly what I want to hear.- Thanks for reminding us!

  20. Mike Nichols says:

    My blog has a backstory — my personal struggle with mental illness. But the posts are not personal; they are about dealing with mental illness or some other mental health issue. I do have opinion pieces that have done well. I suppose they might be considered part of the story.

    I tried my first personal post last week with a story about how my Anxiety Disorder kept me from going to a gathering I really wanted to attend. It has been moderately successful.

    Much more successful are my posts about current mental health issues, such as Obama’s and McCain’s views on mental health.

    So, I am still experimenting with “direct” stories (my personal post and opinion pieces) and the “indirect” stories (my backstory).

    Great picture of your son! Who do you think he looks like most?

  21. Hmmm, yes I do use stories on occasion. I must say though, that this post is a nice reminder of just how important they really are.

    It seems when I have used some particular stories I get quite a ton of comments. When I don’t….I can really tell a difference.

    Cool..thanx Darren

    Davin

  22. David says:

    My dad was raised in Nigeria. He used to talk about my grandmother ( who just passed and whom I’ve only met once) who would gather the families around at nighttime and magically weave stories together as they all listened in awe.

    I believe story is at the core of human existence — it is not just how we communicate, but it is how we think, and who we are.

  23. Jess says:

    the whole reason I began my personal blog was to “tell my story”

    The thing is …it’s not that easy. I want to share with people how I overcame depression and how I cope with anxiety (medication free now – after being on it for about 6 years). But there is so much to my story its sometimes hard to know where to begin – and its also a daunting task looking back on things that make me feel uncomfortable..

    The thing that struck me about your post was the types of stories people are attracted to..
    They are very much stories about people searching and trying to find meaning

    For exampe the first two stories you highlighted i.e.

    Who I am
    Why I am here

    Are two incredibly difficult questions. I think a lot of people probably spend there whole lives without being able to answer these questions. Maybe when people can read about someone else who has found there purpose or ‘calling’ then it feels very inspiring. It challenges people to think about themselves and to try and pursue what they want, rather than what they feel pressured to do.

    To be honest I don’t really know if I know who I am yet. But I do know who I have been and I do know what I have been through – and I think that maybe in sharing my past stories that it can give me some clarity in understanding myself right now.

    I guess everybody is searching…

    jess

  24. Helmi Asyraf says:

    Story gives connection between the blog reader with the posting.

    By having story rather only plain monotonous articles, reader can fit the article into their life, relates the article with they feel, see and touch.

    So, they will be close with the blog as they will think that the blog will help them as the posting can suit with their life well.

    In my blog, http://www.helmiasyraf.com, I had posted one article about how important to give a try one something new and not only keep planning those things which at last make us scared to the burden of changes. After explaining, I tell them my story how I not accept the offers of medical scholarship to UK as im from London to pursue the challenge of trying something way beyond other expectations on me although they keep saying the course that im planning to do is tough and will suck out my life (n_n). The thing that I keep repeating is the danger of SNIOP to our dream – Susceptibility of Negative Influence by Other People.

    If you r interested, here the address :http://helmiasyraf.com/?p=67

    p/s : my blog still a bit mess- im still a newbie in this world.Give your critiques and suggestion? I will really appreciate it (n_n)

    I believe when I tell the story, the reader will know such thing is happening and I do not pluck it from the air and create it by myself. They will have the confidence and trust in them.

    PEOPLE DONT LEARN BY THEMSELVES BUT FROM OTHERS….

  25. It is true about the story, it connects past with the present and present with the future.

  26. This looks like a great book. Thanks for the heads up, Darren.

    My blog is all about stories – my own life story is threaded through my posts, other people’s stories are told via my SHE-POWER interviews, and I also have fiction on the site.

    To me, life is founded on stories because we all live via our own perception anyway, so what is that if not a story? Plus, stories and fables have been the instrument to relay life lessons and deliver warnings throughout time. Even the bible stems from stories.

    I do subscribe to blogs which don’t use stories, but they will rarely be the blogs I comment on or get involved with because there is an intimacy in story telling that sucks you, involves you and that leads to you feeling like part of a clan. And that sense of community is what I love about blogging.

    Kelly :)

  27. Jonny Nguyen says:

    yes, I absolutely agree with you, I am working on it too, check out my site to learn more, thanks

  28. Dan Mihaliak says:

    Telling stories are a part of successful speeches, sermons, and sales pitchs.

  29. Nic Avery says:

    On my main blog I offer tips on daily family life with kids. I don’t however like to tell people what to do, as all families are so different. I use stories from my family to illustrate what they might to try for their family.

  30. Proteiras says:

    Hi! On one hand : knowledge leadership = gourou :( … And on the other hand, if you write “stories have the power to birth faith and trust”, i read what we call that a PSYOPS ! In military terms.

  31. amirulcyber says:

    Hi darren,i just subscribe your blog.I will try come to your blog everyday.Thanks for this info.

  32. Kim says:

    I’ll be sure to check out this book!

    I think stories are such a powerful communication tool. You can also use metaphors to drive home your messages, or to elicit emotional states from your readers.

    As a keen videoblogger, I often use stories as a teaching tool and as a way to develop a stronger connection with my viewers.

  33. This is one of my all time favorite books and couldn’t agree more – It’s helped me be a better communicator online and off – glad you shared it! It’s one of the reasons I went to video testimonials in my blog.

  34. Evelyn Lim says:

    I’ve used stories and jokes every once in a while. I’ve also weaved lessons and made changes to classic stories into an entire blog post. Read my favorite here

    http://www.attractionmindmap.com/cinderella-and-the-story-about-attracting-abundance/

  35. Blogs with stories seems to be more enjoyable. That’s definitely a true statement.

    However, I do find that telling a story is a little easier in conversation but requires good talent and skill when done in writing. To keeps things coherent and exciting at the same time can be a challege.

  36. Yes I use histories in my blog. Whenever I have time and inspiration, I tell a story. Posts with stories get more visits.

  37. Frank Gil says:

    Totally agree with ya, story can easily move readers.

  38. Lew Newmark says:

    I have at times with my blog, but the stories were not really relevant to the blog…this will be changing in the near future as I will be starting a blog that deals with a topic close to my heart and than I can tell an ongoing story, and get involvement from others.

    More to tell in the future…

    Lew

  39. swar says:

    Yes, I agree to. Todays happening is the history of tomorrow. It is also true that history shows the value of the thing called time.

  40. I use stories specifically in one of my blogs. I have tried to have one very specific niche website which I think will sort of only get found over years, a news, snippets, general type blog, and one story blog. I have found the story blog, though I have made by far the fewest posts there, has been the best source of interest from people who didn’t know of my outside of blogging. I am rather new to the whole process, But I can already say that stories in blogs are affective.

  41. Lynn says:

    That you so much for reminding me about one of my favorite books. It’s time I reread it.

    Since I’m primarily a fiction author, I know the power of using stories. However, I tend to forget that important point when I’m blogging.

    I have used stories successfully in my blog posts. I will try to remember to include a story in every post.

  42. Michael Roby says:

    Life is a story. Life is not just raw information or data – otherwise we would all be hard drives with data files and no programs.

    A good use of a story involves methodology that allows the story to make others think and (hopefully) take action. Look at the following methodology, which includes three parts:

    -Challenge – Defining a problem
    -Solution – The Solution to the problem
    -Call to action – Your suggestion for the reader to act upon what they have read by implementing the solution

    Use stories in any of the three parts of the article. Your writing comes alive as you use the story(s) to make your information come real and applicable to the reader.

  43. Steph says:

    John Hollandsworth commented that humans are wired for stories – this is so true!

    Evolutionary psychologists point out that before writing, our ancestors relied on their memory to learn from previous generations. Learning from others is integral to survival.

    Elders would teach their lessons through the art of storytelling, which as we all know intuitively, enhances memory capability.

    Thanks for this great post, Darren. You’ve reminded me that I need to put a little more oomph in my blog posts and use stories more often.

    BTW, my friend Motivatorman is a master storyteller (which is evident on his blog) and has just launched a new service: video storytelling. Check out his own personal video story on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwGHXqp-1mQ

  44. Jeff Baker says:

    I am so glad I found your site Darren. I am a story teller and I have often wondered (I just started blogging) if the way I am telling my story is working. In other words, am I connecting with the reader. I have begun to feel a real potential for conversation and I am excited by the book you’ve recommended. Good luck to you and thanks. Peace — jb

  45. Barbara says:

    I am a story teller, thinking of becoming a blogger since I love to tell stories, but thought that blogs were only for comments and discussion. This particular piece about The Power of Story on Blogs has encouraged me to research further and to tell a story in a blog and see what happens.

    All my stories are true, and about my world filled with animals, plants, nature and the funny, sometimes silly, sometimes sad things that happen. Now I have to commit – wow -

  46. Shiela says:

    I love your blog. I have many of your posts starred on my Google Reader. This one had special meaning. Storytelling is communicating with the heart and soul which means more stories need to be told on a global basis. I am a communications teacher and have started a few blogs, but have never really gotten into telling much of a story – to disjointed. Now I think, after reading these amazing comments with your blog post, I will change one of my blogs to a “this is my story” blog.
    Thank you all.

  47. Bonie says:

    I like to tell about my story, but not all of private :D

  48. Nappy_Rash says:

    Another great article, my wife put me onto this and has developed the idea in her blog. I believe it’s the future of value content on the net.

  49. I tell stories all the time, in each and every post. I try to relate everything I write back to an experience in my own life. Nothing too personal, but just enough so my readers feel a connection. For exaxmple, I was recommending Le Creuset pots the other day to my readers, so I told a short story about my first experience at a Le Creuset store. Simple, but effective.

  50. Only recently did I truly realize that storytelling is at the heart of my many passions and interests. In fact my love for storytelling in movies is what guides me to write my blog tips to motivate people.

    I’ve been very honest with my challenges and know that my readers connect with me deeper for telling my story with all the sweet and sour (from Vanilla Sky movie!).

    Feel free to check out my blog called The Adventures of Motivatorman:
    http://www.motivatorman.blogspot.com/

    Thanks Darren for your fantastic blog.

    Emmanuel
    Motivatorman