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Storytelling: Why It Matters and How To Do It Well

Updated: Oct 20, 2021



When people think about useful tools in the construction industry, storytelling probably doesn’t rank very high on the list. But it should.


In our latest thought leadership roundtable, Sasha Reed, the Director of Industry Advancement at Procore.org, joined me and our participants to talk about why good stories matter.


As Sasha said, “Whether it's trying to get someone to buy your product or someone internally to buy into what you think will work best for your team, storytelling is a very powerful way of connecting with another human being in order to create alignment and to influence outcomes.”


The power of storytelling


Storytelling isn’t the same as sharing information. When something has a narrative and people can see themselves reflected in it, the brain works differently.

“People only remember 5% of any statistics that you share,” Sasha explained. “However, when you're telling a story, your audience will retain 65% of what you told them. And it's essentially because you receive what you hear in different parts of your brain depending on whether it's informational or it’s story.

This is why storytelling is so powerful, and why when it's done right, especially with brands, why it has such an impact on its audience.”


Our roundtable also explored how storytelling gives people and brands the opportunity to tap into authenticity, something we all crave. When you’re crafting a story, a narrative gives you space to acknowledge flaws and failures. Without them, there’s no story arc — no success at the end.


And that distinguishes storytelling from a sales pitch or a stack of statistics. As Sasha said, “Telling human stories, we actually need to see the failure, the flaw, and the acknowledgement of lesser-than in order to really, truly create that overcoming story.”

It’s an area where Sasha and I both acknowledged that the construction industry could grow.


Our industry is very guilty of glossing over its pain points (being overtime or over budget, wasting materials, and even risking human life) with generalities. But without acknowledging the risks we all face, we miss an opportunity to connect with our audience about their concerns and fears. And without the lows, we have a hard time showing growth.

Sasha suggested an alternative, encouraging people and organizations to say something like: “Here's how our teams have learned from every mistake that we've experienced in the field to create new processes or new technologies to enable a new way to be a resilient builder in modern times.” She said that acknowledgement of flaws makes for a better connection. “That's a story an owner would actually buy because you're reflecting to them what they already know about the construction firm,” she explained.


Effective storytelling starts with listening

As I said during the roundtable, if you show up and you start telling your story before the other person is speaking, you’re telling the wrong story. You need to shut up, ask a question, and let them tell their story. And then you can tell the right story — the one that they're wanting to hear.


Sasha echoed that, saying, “Truly getting curious about who your audience is a really key element to making sure you're telling stories that resonate.”

To help you adapt and shift your language based on who you're talking to, we laid out three questions you should ask:

  1. Who is my audience?

  2. What action do I want them to take?

  3. What behavior do I want them to change?

We also hit on the importance of open-ended questions and asking the same questions in different ways. Get curious and listen to what’s not said just as much as what is. Take the time and create the space for your audience to truly engage with you. You can only craft a story that will truly compel them when you understand them.


Creating the hero’s journey

After listening, it’s time to start storytelling. And we looked at one highly effective storytelling model: the hero’s journey.


It essentially maps a hero stepping out from the comfort of his or her life into an adventure, finding a mentor to come alongside them, overcoming obstacles, and coming back to their place of origin as a transformed person.


Brands often use the hero’s journey in storytelling — but they usually get it wrong. The brand is not the hero of the story. The product or service isn’t, and neither are you. You are the guide. The person or group receiving the story — the audience — is the hero (or, at least, that should be the case if you want your story to be a success).

When you want to use storytelling to convince someone of something, ask yourself how it’s going to solve their day-to-day problems and alleviate their pain points.


Sasha suggested a starting point, saying, “One of the greatest ways to persuade is to first start with creating common ground.” In many cases, that can be the shared pains of the construction industry.


From there, watch and observe what your audience does and says. We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying again: pay attention to what’s not said, too. “What they don't say is where you find the painkillers, the workarounds that are creating a good enough experience that they aren't even aware of the true pain and cost to the organization because they're so used to doing it in that way,” Sasha said.


Once you have listened to your audience and identified the pain points (both those they’re aware of and those they aren’t), you can start to craft their hero’s journey. You invite them into the adventure of solving the problem at hand, serving as their Obi-Wan Kenobi-style guide along the way. You help them see how they can overcome their challenges and return a hero. And that makes an effective story.


Suggested reading and watching materials

Our robust roundtable conversation pulled snippets from a number of resources you might find helpful. We recommend checking out:

Watch the entire discussion with Sasha and other roundtable participants on the CPC Youtube Channel. There, you can subscribe to be notified when new recordings are posted. And if you're interested in participating on a future roundtable — or you want to propose a future topic — check out the Virtual Roundtable webpage to sign up and participate in future events.



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