If We Tell It, They Will Come

Yesterday, we explored the idea that storytelling is a key driver of business success because it allows us to reach people’s hearts as well as their minds.  

We looked at the time Peter Guber, author of Tell to Win, struck out pitching his vision of a state-of-the-art baseball stadium in Las Vegas because he didn’t tell a story.

Prior to becoming an owner of the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Peter founded Mandalay Entertainment and focused on purchasing minor league baseball teams, including the Cincinnati Reds Single-A team in Dayton.

In Tell to Win, Peter writes, “Dayton had seemed as much a long shot as Vegas had seemed a sure bet. Ohio’s media had suggested that the rundown city center was an irredeemable blight on the landscape and wasn’t worth a dime of investment.  Few of Dayton’s officials thought suburban fans would venture downtown after dark, and urban dwellers supposedly couldn’t afford the luxury of a ballgame.” 

What happened next illustrates the power of storytelling to succeed in business.

“If we build it, they will come.” 

Peter told Dayton city officials the Field of Dreams story in which Kevin Costner’s character was thought to be crazy for building a ballpark in the middle of a cornfield.  

Instantly Peter had their attention. Then, he sparked their imagination by portraying the new stadium as a catalyst for the rebirth of the city center.

“We told the same story – that we were building a real-life Field of Dreams – to persuade Magic Johnson and (Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner) Archie Griffin to invest in the project. Then we kept telling the story together until Dayton’s civic leadership sponsored a municipal bond to underwrite the project.”

Instead of presenting just facts, figures, data and statistics, Peter engaged their hearts.

This is the power of emotional transportation:  “Stories that ‘work’ transport audiences emotionally. They move us to laugh, cry, gasp, sigh, or yell,” Peter tells us.  “In any business, as in show business, if you fail to transport your audience emotionally, you will lose your audience.”

The difference between stories and non-stories?

“Non-stories may provide information,” Peter writes, “but stories have a unique power to move people’s hearts, minds, feet, and wallets in the storyteller’s intended direction.”

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Reflection:  What is a purposeful story I could tell to achieve a current business or personal goal.

Action: Tell it.

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