Verbal PR – how to win clients through storytelling

This article is a follow up to the webinar – How To Win Clients Through Verbal Storytelling.

Storytelling for the consultative professions

It’s a great ‘moving skill’, connecting with your audience on a deeper level than the traditional logical proposition.

Storytelling is a soft influencing skill, a more subtle way to educate and persuade. It helps you co-create a solution for someone. As Dan Pink puts it, it helps you ‘attune’ with your audience and paint a vivid picture in their minds.

It’s very useful for Pre-Prepared Presentations (PPP) and Spontaneous Speaking Situations (SSS).

Storytelling goes far BEYOND the mere telling of an anecdote:

Package/frame a message, a presentation that follows a nice arc, a memorable case study, an illustration of something complex (via analogy, metaphor, model), a personal story (like your own back-story), an imaginary story (“Suppose you walked into a room and…”).


We make sense of the world through stories. We’re hard-wired to respond to tropes like good vs evil, revenge, fish out of water, redemption, rags to riches, etc.

If you can package your message in these terms, you’ve got neuro-science (and evolution) on your side! They impact people on a emotional level and are therefore more memorable.

Rule of 3 – simple but powerful. The smallest unit that constitutes a pattern or progression.

Aristotle’s elements of effective communication:

  • Logos (logic, data, appeals to the brain)
  • Ethos (trust, credibility, appeals to the gut)
  • Pathos (make us care, appeals to the heart)

Saving for Retirement slide – fix the disconnect between the ME NOW and the ME LATER. Otherwise, people think saving for retirement is like giving up money in the present and giving it to a stranger years later.


Pain, Aspirin, Legacy (PAL) – a simple way to package a message.

A is easy to explain because that’s YOUR world (and tangible).

P and L are more difficult because they’re about your audience AND require picture painting.

Great storytelling paints pictures and plays movies in people’s minds.

Don’t make it mechanical. Make it sound conversational.

3-tiered explanation

  • Go beyond the headline claim (eg “we’re very client-focused) – this is Layer 1 INFORMATION
  • Layer 2 is the explanation, give that headline meaning, help people value it – give INSIGHT
  • Layer 3 is where the magic lies – tell a story that illustrates it (INSPIRE)

12-second pitch

Another idea from the Greeks, the length of a single exhaled breath – the ideal length for a well expressed thought or idea. What would YOUR 35-40 words be? Distil your message into its purest essence.


It’s fine having a good story to tell, but are you doing it justice in the TELLING?

It’s partly a matter of the material and structure:

Don’t take too long with the set-up, get to the drama quickly, include the detail that matters (a room so cold you could see your breath, hands cradling a hot mug of tea, etc), have some twists and turns, something unexpected, a nice resolution and a moral or lesson.

It’s also about the telling – use of voice, timing, re-enacting scenes, etc. Connect with how you FEEL about the words you’re saying; let that come through in your voice and body language.


Be curious, so your mental antennae are constantly twitching. You’ll tend to find things aligned with what you’re currently interested in, but be on the look-out for good material (like a journalist with a nose for a story).

Go beneath the surface to find meaning in your observations and experiences. It helps if you think metaphorically but there are always several potential ‘angles’. My sheep rescue story could be about small talk, the way helping others makes you feel good or the value in changing routines.

Convert these things into ‘wisdom parcels’ and practise telling them. Storytelling is a learned skill. Yes, some may have more innate talent than others but everyone can learn and improve.

As you accumulate material, develop a simple filing system:

  • Tag the story (the one about…)
  • Include the key elements (the facts)
  • Figure out the moral or lesson.

Story-listening – the flip side of storytelling

It’s not all about you speaking and saying impressive things. It’s also about getting the other side to open up and share THEIR story. The objective is to CONNECT so you can work together in some way as trusted collaborators (like a doctor and patient).

3 books for you from:

  • Carmine Gallo
  • Nancy Duarte
  • Bill Bryson

The Bryson one is an astonishing achievement for someone I always thought of as a travel writer. He makes fantastic use of storytelling to explain science to a lay audience in a hugely entertaining way.

This article is a follow up to the webinar – How To Win Clients Through Verbal Storytelling.

Andrew Thorp‘s new course (Applied Storytelling) starts on 20th January 2020 – details can be found HERE.