Hi Agata, welcome to The Business Storyteller Podcast.
Hello, I’m super happy to be part of the first episode. It’s a pleasure to be here.
We’re so delighted to have you here and before we begin, I’m sure our listeners would love to know you better. Would you like to introduce yourself further and tell us how you got into growth marketing?
Sure, I’m the Head of Marketing or rather Growth at Piktochart. I lead the marketing, sales, and growth part of the product. And you asked me how I got into growth marketing? I think the best answer would be to say that by getting exposed to as many areas of business as possible. I actually started my career on the support team for Ads at Google. And then I quickly moved into a manager role where I was leading a global team of social media and community managers. After a few years, I got tempted by the startup world and took on a role of a VP of Marketing at one of the quickly growing startup companies in Germany. I think actually this first role shaped me into a growth marketer because I had to become an expert in all the marketing channels and experiment with various growth strategies. I stayed in this area because I find it interesting and every day, there’s a new challenge. I became also a growth mentor and eventually joined Piktochart, so here I am!
Yeah, it’s so great to have you on Piktochart and it’s also an incredible career path that you have from Google all the way to Piktochart. Since we’re on the pilot episode of The Business Storyteller Podcast, can you help us to define what is business storytelling and why is it important generally for businesses at the present moment?
Business storytelling in general refers to the use of well-crafted narrative in business communication. So it could be both internal and external communication. Just to give you an example, it could be used by the CEOs to inspire and get a buy-in on their vision among the employees. We hear a lot about the so-called strategy narrative so this is what I was referring to. Or it could be used by salespeople when pitching to clients, or by marketers like me when building brand awareness and positioning the product amongst the competition. And it (storytelling) actually is a very powerful tool. Often it might be underestimated if you haven’t used it, but it actually can help companies gain trust, build stronger relationships with both their clients and stakeholders, and persuade your audience. Actually, let me ask you something, can you think of one or two founders or business leaders that you personally really admire?
There’s actually quite a number of them, but I think the top one that comes to my mind is Steve Jobs from Apple. The late Steve Jobs is definitely a business leader that I really admire for not only his product vision but also his storytelling skills.
Yeah exactly, so he is a perfect example of a storyteller. If you think about great leaders, they all know that storytelling is very powerful. It helps your ideas to stick if your ideas are delivered in the form of a story. Why it actually works this way? Our brains are wired to remember stories, but they aren’t really wired to remember facts or figures. When we listen to facts and figures, we have a tendency to switch off as well. And I really like this quote by Maya Angelou that I like to bring up when talking about the importance of storytelling in business: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel”. That’s essentially what stories are good at. They evoke emotions. So usually when you’re telling a story, you’re building this unique connection with your audience where they either feel empathy towards you. Or you can build excitement with your audience and you can make them feel pride. Let’s say if these are your employees and you want to inspire them with your amazing vision. You can even build FOMO (fear of missing out) and so on.
Actually, this whole idea of storytelling in business isn’t new. It has always been there. It’s just that in recent years, it has become more of a buzzword so we hear more and more about it. More people started presenting themselves as storytellers. We see a lot of this on LinkedIn especially or on Twitter. If you look at social media channels and analyze any content that goes viral, in the majority of cases, these are stories as well. The ones that really went viral.
However, you ask me as well why I think it’s important right now. I do believe that storytelling in business has never been as important as it is now since I would say last year. The reason is the global pandemic. It has forced us to stay home, limited our in-person interactions, and made us rely on the virtual ones more. So it became more challenging to communicate effectively this way. You are missing the context of the body language if you’re on a Zoom call for example. It’s way harder to build trust and sometimes to understand the emotions. In this specific context, stories can be really helpful to improve the whole communication aspect.
At the same time, while we were all forced to work remotely, the lines between personal and work life got blurred. This changed the way business communication works. We moved away from formal and factual communication into more personal and human, which I really like. I think that’s a good shift. Also if you think about how we’re spending time since the pandemic, we started watching more TV shows, YouTube videos. We spent way more time online. We attended attending way more Zoom calls than we ever did in the past. As such, we became more picky in terms of the content we want to spend our time consuming online. So it’s crucial that companies understand through stories, they can make their specific content way more interesting and they can help to build this relationship online with their audience.
That’s a really good insight especially on the trend of storytelling that it wasn’t something that was new, but in recent years this became a buzzword and more people are calling themselves storytellers. I just think about even the things that I tend to watch is because of a good story that is being told. Yeah, I like the quote you mentioned that it’s not about facts or figures, but how they make you feel. I think that’s one thing that our listeners would really appreciate. Well, thanks for giving us an outline and the history and just that overview of business storytelling.
Now based on your observation, how do you see this trend of business storytelling affecting the future of businesses and brands, and why should we care about this?
I think that everyone needs to start caring about this topic. If you look at how things are shifting, businesses and brands will continue becoming more human. This is already present right now but it’s going to become more important than it is today. It will impact all the areas of business so it has started. More and more consumers will start caring about sustainability. That is also very present now and if you look at e-commerce brands, many of them bring this topic on how they are sustainable and customers do care about it. So people seek products and brands that align with their personal values.
The same applies to hiring. People want to work for companies where their work will create value. If companies will want to survive and stand out from the competition, they will need a strong strategic and brand narrative to attract both employees and customers. Brand narrative and strategic narrative – this is essentially storytelling. How good are you in this, how well can you tell your story in order to convince your audience.
I think businesses will also need to rethink their content approach and double-down on authentic stories coming from real people, not brands. That’s already visible on LinkedIn. Very often, I actually follow people on LinkedIn rather than companies. It’s usually people who do work at these companies and I see them as brand representatives as well. They very often bring this personal touch into the stories that they share on LinkedIn, and this makes the brand feel more human. So it’s easier for you to connect with the brand and ultimately start liking the brand because you like the person you’re following.
Stories will start playing a key role in helping businesses win the attention of their audience and build relationships with customers. We will move more towards raw stories recorded on the spot like we already see on Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter. After using video conferencing for a longer time, we all got more comfortable with getting in front of the camera. It will become more natural. Before we had obstacles, not everyone was keen but now it became so natural because we were kind of forced to be in front of the camera. I think this will actually shift our communication and we will move even more so towards video and away from email and on social media. Video will replace text-based blog posts. I think that the majority of brands will heavily incorporate stories into their sales, marketing, and product development.
Yeah, interesting observation. I think when we think about videos in the past, it used to be high production, it has to be done in a studio but with the pandemic now, we also see how people are doing videos from their homes. We also see on social media and who would have thought that TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook would actually be a place for people to share their stories. People are so comfortable now in front of the camera like what you said, and that is a very interesting insight on why businesses should start thinking about storytelling and how it could affect them in the future.
In relation to that, we have also experienced storytelling in Piktochart. Perhaps you’d like to share how has storytelling benefited our organization, Piktochart, right now?
Yeah, I feel that we use stories everywhere. Actually, storytelling is at the heart of our business. At Piktochart, we are on a mission of democratizing effective storytelling in business. As such, we have to lead by example and we use storytelling all across our operations. This applies to hiring, pitching product ideas, driving awareness about our brand.
One good example is when I joined Piktochart because this was also through storytelling. I was captivated by the funding story shared by the CEO, Ai Ching, during our first call. When I joined the call, I didn’t know a lot about Piktochart. When she told me the story behind the company like why she created the company and what is the current situation, I just felt an ultimate connection to her and she immediately was able to gain my trust. Later on, I gave this to her as feedback and she said I wasn’t the first person who told it to her. I think it’s really crucial that CEOs do not underestimate how powerful storytelling can be when it comes to hiring because you can essentially build a relationship with someone whom you don’t really know on the initial call.
Also when I think about our best-performing marketing initiatives, they all revolve around stories. When it comes to blog content, the blog post that is performing the best in terms of driving traffic and conversions are usually the ones done based on story narrative. Someone actually talks about their experience and instead of writing five ways to do x, y, z, they tell stories on how they started using this and how it helped them.
The same is with #PiktoChats that you (Wilson) are actually leading, so you have been doing all the #PiktoChats with our customers. I think that was a great idea to involve our customers to tell their stories on how they are using Piktochart and how storytelling has helped their business. This also applies to our webinars because it’s also more on this aspect of storytelling or even our social media posts. We always try when we are talking about some new initiatives or announcing new product launches. We always try to involve our employees to tell it in the form of a story on social media rather than a promotional-sounding post. Everything written in the form of a story tends to perform better as well.
It’s so true about how you mentioned storytelling is at the heart of our business. I remember when I joined Piktochart too, it was through an interview with Ai Ching and I was so inspired by the achievements of Piktochart back in the early days. Who would have thought that a company that was focusing on creating a design tool end up adopting storytelling and now trying to lead the way in storytelling?
We do it even with customer support, right? We have this regular weekly meeting and once a month, our customer support will also present what has been happening in their world of customers. Whenever they present some feature request, they present it always in the form of an actual user or customer story – why the user would need it, what are the problems the customers are facing. This tends to stick way better because people memorized the specific person that said it and it motivates our developers to come up with a fix for this.
Yeah, so true. When I think about all the reports that we hear even in Piktochart, it doesn’t just present you with a problem but it also shows you that there is a person behind it. I think that story is so important to give a context even to me as a marketer who’s not involved in the product team. Thanks so much, Agata for sharing about that.
We want to move on to the next question and I’m curious to hear the three most important business storytelling tips for you. So if you could offer three of them, what would they be?
I think all three will help you to make your stories stick and build this relationship. The first thing is to make your story relatable. If your audience can personally relate to your story, it’s easier for them to focus on it and remember it later. It could be a similar experience and as an example. As a marketer, I would bring up a story from my day-to-day work life. I know that this describes a common struggle that other marketers face. Let’s say I’ll post this on LinkedIn. This way, it’s easier for me to get both their attention and trust. We are in the same boat, and this helps to build a connection and win their attention online. We’re always fighting for attention so it’s definitely easier if you bring it in the form of a story for an actual problem. Instead of overthinking what would be the topic I want to write about and doing keyword research and then coming up with content about the topic that maybe you don’t have the experience in this area. Focus rather on the things where you have some story to tell and where people could actually relate as well.
The second one is evoking emotions. If there are elements that make your audience either laugh or feel touched by your story, the chances that they will remember your message get automatically increased. People remember how you made them feel. I mentioned it already with the quote I brought up.
The third one is to use visual language. We are also a visual communication platform. I actually try to use it every single time – images, videos, data visualizations. This makes it easier for your brain to recall a large portion of the information. You often recall the image and then the message. That’s why I always recommend using visuals that will either help to simplify your message or create an element of surprise. By using data visualization, we make complex data simplified and more understandable to a broader audience. Adding a surprise component with an intriguing picture or a professionally-looking visual helps us catch our audience’s attention and stand out from the crowd, especially online because there is a lot of competition for attention. Especially videos, I’ve tested it myself. Whenever I’m posting something in the form of a video on LinkedIn or our blog, I know the engagement will be way higher than if it’s just text.
Great tips and I’m sure our listeners who are listening to this would find these tips applicable so that they can tell their stories in a more impactful manner. You mentioned about videos just now so I was curious to hear perhaps about Piktostory, which Piktochart has recently launched. Could you perhaps tell us why Piktostory and why it’s part of what Piktochart wants to do?
We did notice there’s a big shift towards video and there is a need to repurpose existing video content. So many companies are creating long-form videos like webinars, Zoom recordings, and even now we’re recording this podcast. But sometimes, they only live once. So you basically just use it for once and then you’re done. With Piktostory, what you can do is basically repurpose this one content piece into multiple. You can extract small tips or pieces of advice that you could publish online to a broader audience and maybe a different type from your initial audience who could benefit from.
It’s not only for webinars but also for other purposes. I personally use it a lot. There’s this built-in web recording feature so I basically directly record myself within Piktostory and then I can very quickly transcribe the video clip. It literally takes me a minute, so I don’t even have to prepare. I just share something like best practices from marketing, and I transcribe and can easily cut/edit to fit the branding. And then I can post the video on my social media channels and I do this often on LinkedIn.
I think a lot of people find this helpful especially when it comes to repurposing the content and making sure they can post more of the video content, even if they are not experts in video editing. Some of them might even be experts in video editing but people simply don’t have time. Video editing using a standard video editor takes a lot of time and very often we don’t have it. Piktostory is super quick, low effort and you already can drive some engagement on social media channels.
Thanks for giving a plug on Piktostory. If you’re listening to this, do check out Pikstory. We believe that it’s a great way for you to implement storytelling more effectively and it’s very easy to use. I use it all the time as well and find it to be helpful especially to catch the attention of people through the stories that I’m telling.
We are coming to the last question. What are some of your favorite examples of businesses who have done storytelling right?
Actually, there are many and I think more companies are doing storytelling the right way. Let me bring two, one which is an e-commerce product and the other is a SaaS. For e-commerce, it’s Toms and their concept of 1 for 1 shoe. What I find really interesting is that if you go to Toms’ website, it doesn’t say that they sell shoes. They say they are in business to improve lives. This is really fascinating because that’s their brand story and this is how they initially gained popularity by constantly sticking to the same narrative. They are impacting people’s emotions. People know that they are actually helping and Toms have this amazing video showing you the impact of the pair of shoes that you have bought and how you are actually helping some kids who could not afford to have shoes. I think this is a great example of storytelling and they have done this from the beginning of the existence of their brand.
The second example is LiveChat, a customer service platform. They hired Marcos Bravo as their brand ambassador and head of marketing. This guy is amazing. He does a really great job when it comes to building relationships with people on LinkedIn, creating engaging stories through videos. Every single post that he creates on LinkedIn is a story as well. He has these engaging videos on YouTube where you can learn about video production in a very easy way. Even when you go to LiveChat’s website instead, you don’t see the standard product screenshots. The majority of SaaS companies usually have screenshots of how their products look like. In their case, you don’t see this. The first thing you see on the header is the face of Marcos and it also says that he is the ambassador of the brand. This immediately creates trust because a lot of people come to the brand because of him. They know Marcos and he has a lot of followers and people really like his content, so he becomes a magnet for the brand. That’s what I’ve said before, it’s a perfect example of how people trust people, they don’t trust brands. You have to be able to leverage this and let your employees tell the story of your brand in a more personal way. I think LiveChat is a really good example and I’d recommend checking out their website and videos.
Those are great examples and when you mentioned Toms and LiveChat, I can see the thing they share in common is that they don’t sell their products but they sell their stories. That is so effective for both of these organizations and I’m sure there are many more examples of businesses out there who are doing storytelling right and they see the importance of it.
Well, Agata, thank you for sharing so many valuable insights with us today I’m so glad to have you in our pilot episode to introduce business storytelling to our listeners. Now before we conclude this episode, I’d love to ask you some fun questions if that’s okay with you. I think it’s a great way to end as all these questions are centered around storytelling. I’m going to ask you two questions first and then I’m gonna do some quickfire questions later.
My first question for you is this: what is your favorite movie? I know you love watching movies.
Because I usually love watching movies, it’s difficult to choose. But I think two favorite ones that I watch more than once are Forest Gump and Love Actually. If you think of it, both of them have a lot of shorter stories inside of one movie. There’s so much going on and it’s not just one storyline but multiple. It shows because I choose these movies, it shows how much I love a good story.
Yeah, I knew this was going to be a challenging question for you because I know you enjoy movies. If we put movies aside, another form of storytelling is also books. What about your favorite book?
A personal or business?
I would say perhaps both.
A business book is difficult to choose but let me go with the line of the story and since I’m sure people would appreciate some recommendations, a very good book that I’d recommend is Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. It’s written by two brothers, Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a really good book explaining basically the principles of how to actually tell the stories behind your ideas and make sure that your audience would memorize them.
For non-business books, I read this book multiple times since my childhood and it’s The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. That’s also a great book and I think what is fascinating about this book is that this is a book for both children and adults. If you read it as a child, you understand it completely differently because you go more into this fantasy world. But if you read it as an adult, you see there are so many metaphors about life and so many great lessons about life. This makes the book so magical that both children and adults can read it, and it never gets outdated as well.
Now I’m going to ask you some quickfire questions, so you have to respond to these questions in less than five seconds. Are you ready? Let’s start off, theatre or cinema?
What about reading or writing?
Painting or drawing?
That’s a tough one. Let’s say drawing.
Facebook or Twitter?
Twitter. I would say more LinkedIn but in this case, Twitter.
This is more fun. What about Netflix or YouTube?
For movies, is it Titanic or Star Wars?
And lastly, would you go for romantic or documentaries?
Romantic, it’s just more relaxing to watch after work.
Well, that was fun! Thanks, Agata for your responses. I’m sure our listeners would enjoy that too and also possibly go check out the movie and books that Agata recommended. Lastly to all our listeners who would like to connect with you, Agata, how can they reach you?
I think I mentioned it so many times and it’s not a surprise by now that I’m mainly on LinkedIn. It’s because I have an 18-months old kid at home so I don’t have that much time to be everywhere online. I had to choose one social media platform and not get distracted too much, so it’s mainly on LinkedIn and you can connect with me there. Or you can check out some of my blog posts on Piktochart and reach out to us as well.
Yeah, definitely. Well once again, thank you Agata for coming on our pilot episode for The Business Storyteller Podcast. We’re so glad to have you here and to all our listeners who are listening, do check out our upcoming episodes and they will all be related to business storytelling. We have a lot of different speakers and guests on our show, so we hope you’ll be able to find this podcast a beneficial one.
That’s all for today!
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