Compelling, relatable, and memorable stories are more than a strategic device or a marketing tactic—they’re about forming lasting bonds between people. We connect through shared experiences, and our stories reveal our uniqueness, values, and vulnerability. The best stories are ones you can visualize in the retelling—you feel as if you’re there, experiencing the events first-hand. You may not remember what you ate for dinner last night, but you’ll never forget the first book you read and loved. Authors can create worlds and characters that often resemble our own, and so we’re drawn into those worlds as if they were real. We immerse, we get involved, and we develop a relationship with the characters and story as it unfolds.
The hospitality industry is all about designing experiences—we’re selling stories of how our guests would feel if they stayed in our hotel and the kind of memories that could remain long after the vacation ends. And who best to learn from than the authors who’ve made their mark on us? We’re sharing five killer techniques that your favorite authors use, which you can implement in your storytelling right now.
Talk Like A Human
Do you want to know the cure for insomnia? Corporate speak. Great authors bring characters to life by giving them an individual voice and allowing them to use it to form a human attachment with the reader. You start to think the characters are so real they leap off the page. According to an HBR study, developing an emotional connection with your guest matters more than stellar customer service. Our brains are wired to feel first, think second, and mirror neurons give us the ability to not only consume stories but to also see the images and feel the emotions behind them. We experience the story as if it’s happening to us. And the fastest way to cultivate that empathic connection is through communicating with your guest like a human.
When handling TripAdvisor complaints, address your guest by their name and make a point to repeat the issue and the fact that you understand their concern and will make every effort to resolve it. When creating Instagram captions, rely on your brand voice and tone guidelines to ensure that you’re communicating in a way that will resonate. Ace Hotel creates captions in a voice that’s quirky and cool. Thompson Hotels evokes a casual vibe of playfulness while being informative. However, the thread between the two is that they’re communicating in a voice that resembles how someone would speak.
Create and Solve a Conflict
Great authors are masters at creating conflict, invented obstacles for the hero to overcome. Without conflict, there is no story. Ahab never encounters the white whale he obsessively hunts. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde part ways without incident. And a reader’s most satisfying moment comes from the resolution of said conflict—the doctor who succumbs to his darker self, the three-day chase for the whale that ends with the death of the captain and the rescue of Ishmael. Conflict and its closure take the reader on a journey with the author; they become invested in the story and its outcome.
When it comes to the story of your hotel, you tell the story of the challenges a guest is facing and how you can provide solutions. Your guest has food restrictions, and you boast about your Michelin-starred menu, and it’s gluten-free, vegetarian, halal, nut-free, and vegan options. Your guest needs a room at the last minute, and you talk about the deals you have and room availability.
Show. Don’t Tell
There’s nothing with a little “telling” if you do a lot of “showing.” Skilled authors balance the two and know when to convey clear, concise facts versus visualizing a scene for the reader to heighten the dramatic effect. Telling distances the reader from the story because there’s little room for imagination or interpretation whereas showing is a more immersive experience. You’re inviting the reader to participate in the story, allowing them to see scenes played out in their mind as if they’re watching a movie. They’re invested in the characters and, as a result, make the story their own. Ever read a slew of Amazon reviews to see wildly different interpretations of a book’s plot and meaning? How a character resonated with some but was deplored by others?
Let your guest be part of your story. Make them the center of it. Show videos of rooms, vistas, and local attractions so they can form their own story even before they step on a plane. Spark their imagination with your culinary creations. Create lifestyle imagery so guests can visualize themselves in that lounge chair, cooling under an umbrella, and sipping on an iced drink. Let images and video drive the story, and your text acts as the supporting cast.
Play with Plot Twists
The plot twist is when a story takes a turn for the unexpected. It’s the surprise ending you never saw coming. Gripping mysteries and thrillers toy with the reader, and they’re on board if the payoff is worth their investment.
Plot twists in your storytelling could come in the form of surprise offers, extras, or giveaways. It could be a new take on an old amenity classic, i.e., reinvention of room formats, candlelight yoga on the lawn, or spa experiences that go far beyond the facial and Swedish massage. Your guest has a set of preconceived notions about hotels based on their history. Usurp them if that’s part of your brand.
Trim the Fat
One of the most skillful aspects of a compelling story is in its velocity and the way in which the author controls pacing and movement. The easiest way to lighten the narrative load is to excise the extraneous. That two-page diatribe about a madeleine cookie? Sayonara. The random character whose only purpose in the book is to annoy the reader? Eliminated.
You’ve done incredible investigative work on the level of a CIA operative about your customer. You know their wants, needs, lifestyle, preferences, consumption habits, and triggers. Don’t bog them down with information that impedes their path to your brand and booking page. If your location is a key selling point, zero in local attractions, as well as the ease and convenience of navigating the area. Focus on the aspects of your property and brand that matter most to your customer. The rest is just noise.
Need help crafting your story?
At Storified Hospitality Group, we offer workshops on story design and architecture from hotel veterans who have created consistent, award-winning, revenue-generating content. Contact us today to get started.