Storytelling for Business

by Nick Owen

What’s in it for me?

Tell this type of story when you want people to change, do things differently, buy in to a new process and so on, and you don’t want them to be cynical about the reasons you’re asking them to do it. Before telling them how they’ll benefit, be up-front and tell them first how you’ll benefit.


  • Make it an authentic story about what’s in it for you and what motivates you.
  • Be open and honest about your goals and values.
  • If you have significantly more positional power than your audience, don’t tell them the changes are for their benefit.
  • Be clear and upfront: don’t disrespect people’s ability to come to their own conclusions.
  • The best of all possible worlds is a triple win: a win for yourself, for others and for the wider community or the planet.

Simmons (see Want to know more?) adds the following thoughts:

  • Distinguish between healthy ambition and dishonest exploitation.
  • Openly admit to your own selfish intentions and the reasons behind them. As long as you’re not planning to rip people off, they will generally accept a certain amount of personal desire to get on; if others benefit too, so much the better.
  • If you’re genuinely altruistic, don’t assume that others will automatically accept you are. Tell a story that gives your audience solid evidence of your noble intentions.

A fine example is the advertisement in a London newspaper that Ernest Shakleton, the explorer, is alleged to have placed. Thousands flocked to sign up to join his expedition to Antarctica, impressed by the honesty and integrity of the message.


Men wanted for hazardous journey.

Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness, Constant danger, Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.