So begins Ian Harris’s Hooked on You, which advocates using stories to cut through your readers’ attention deficit issues, and gives you practical advice on how to do so. Having seen Ian’s talk at Google – which you can see at the foot of this post – I was excited to read more about his approach.
I’ve had a keen interest in storytelling for several years. As it’s increasingly become an industry buzz word, books extolling its virtues have proliferated.
I really liked the similarly-titled Hooked, which also offers a practical approach but focuses more on storytelling from a leadership perspective.
Great books like Made to Stick and Talk Like Ted also highlight stories as key to crafting memorable communications. In his research for Talk Like Ted, for example, Carmine Gallo found that in the most viewed TED talks of all time, stories make up between 65 and 72 per cent of the content.
Other books, like Paul Smith’s rather dry Lead with a Story focus on identifying organisational stories and narratives and using these to effect change.
Ian Harris has a straightforward approach to storytelling. He finds an interesting story, uses it as a hook to grab attention, then adds a ‘bridge’ to the real message he’s trying to get across. He’s developed it into a genuine style: when you get an email from Ian, you know what to expect. You also know it will be worth a minute of your time to read it.
One of the biggest barriers to using stories is finding them in the first place. You need to develop your ‘story radar’, as many of us don’t recognise good stories when we hear them – which is partly what makes them so effective. Or even if we do recognise them, we don’t collect them for later use.
Ian has plenty of innovative ideas for finding interesting stories, and includes plenty of great examples of ones he’s found, and how he’s used them.
I’ve collected individual stories, case studies, quotes and other interesting snippets for the last few years using tools like Evernote and more recently Pinterest, but Ian’s book convinced me to review my approach and keep a separate ‘swipe file’ for all the stories I find.
“Clear writing is the most reliable way that I know of to become a celebrity in your industry” Ian Harris
Among the many other things I found useful are:
- How to ‘bridge’ smoothly, so your reader understands the point you’re illustrating
- Writing tips, not only on the mechanics of writing but on becoming a more productive writer, primarily by cramming writing into odd moments of the day
- How to add ‘whimsy’, sign your work, and the need to frequently test readability scores
At less than 100 pages, it’s a short read but Ian doesn’t waste a word. Hooked on You is entertaining, packed with practical advice, and essential reading for any communicator. It’s also an absolute bargain.
You can sign up for Ian’s regular emails at http://internal-communication.com