By Greg Dardis / Guest Column

You can tell if you’re in for a good story by the very first sentence.

“The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind,” began Maurice Sendak in his legendary children’s book “Where The Wild Things Are.”

“Marcella liked to play up in the attic at Grandma’s quaint old house way out in the country, for there were so many old forgotten things to find up there,” Johnny Gruelle wrote as the introduction to “Raggedy Ann Stories,” first published nearly a century ago.

“The sun did not shine,” Dr. Seuss began in his iconic “Cat In The Hat.” “It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.”

As the father of four, I have seen how these opening lines draw sleepy children into your arms and onto the pages, shining a flashlight down corridors of the imagination never before trod.

Books pile up all over our home, in backpacks and baskets, boxes and bins. My wife and I can never quite keep up – all while managing the ones that belong to the library and come with the looming threat of overdue fines – but we appreciate children’s books and the way they feel like an antidote to the iPad.

It’s not just the adventures of Curious George and Mike Mulligan that interest my kids. They also request stories about me when I was young. And so I’ve tried to summon my creativity after the lights are off and the script is gone to tell them about growing up in Farley, about milking the cows before school and doing the paper route, about playing football in college and working construction one hot summer. Who can resist a child’s earnest plea, “Tell me a story?” The hunger for storytelling is embedded in our DNA.

The corporate world does itself a great disservice when it forgets this reality, which it often does. Somehow it assumes that being professional and being personal are mutually exclusive. But with the bottom line, there is also a plotline – a character, a conflict and a solution to offer up. This is the structure – everything from laying out the opportunity to outlining the evidence that a solution works – that compels an audience, be it a board member or a toddler.

The holiday season is the perfect time to tell your company’s story. Whether you own a small business or direct sales for a Fortune 500, your clients will welcome – and, deep down, maybe expect – more personal year-end communications. Storytelling makes you memorable and builds loyalty. It shows you’re about people, not simply profit.

Begin by reviewing your brand. How do you want to be perceived? What three words would you like clients to describe you as? Why do employees respect the company? Make sure the stories you tell reflect these values.

Then do a little homework to round up your best storytelling material. Ask around. You’re looking for multiple stories that help tell one overarching story. This is a chance to show what good people you’ve hired. Did your administrative assistant win a blue ribbon for best cherry pie at the county fair? Does your IT guy speak three languages? Did the new hire just run a marathon? Seize milestones to spotlight employees: someone who completed his first year with the company, an employee who marked her 20-year anniversary, someone born on Leap Year. Stories of the company’s founding can be interspersed with these contemporary chronicles.

Remember, the heart of brand storytelling is answering the question, “what motivates your team to wake up and come to work every day?” When you do that, you can’t go wrong.

Share your story on various platforms: on your YouTube channel, through a personal email or blog post, via a special issue of the e-newsletter, an Instagram photo or a toast you deliver at the holiday party. Then prepare to make a lasting impression.

Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Inc., located at 2403 Muddy Creek Lane in Coralville. For more information, visit www.dardisinc.com.

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