Using Stories in Coaching and in Marketing (and in entertainment and in…)


Using Stories in Coaching and in Marketing (and in entertainment and in…)

stories brick wallI love my job.

Well, to be truthful, I love parts of my job.

I had a professor once who said, “Every job has some ditch digging in it.” He meant that there was inglorious grunt work that went with every endeavor. Erecting a magnificent building requires that first you dig a hole to lay a foundation. Writing a book requires that first you do a lot of research.

It’s just like, every job requires selling. A salesperson, obviously, sells but so does a teacher, a therapist, you name it. A teacher sells the students on how and why they can/should acquire a skill or knowledge. A therapist sells the patient on a better way of thinking or feeling or responding to life’s events.

It’s also true that every business requires marketing. It’s simply a reality. Even if your business is an altruistic one that sincerely helps people, you will have to do some marketing to get those people in the door for you to help them.

I learned that the hard way. I naively thought that when I got certified in NLP and Hypnosis, that the world would beat a path to my door.


Then I got my own web site. THAT would do it! NOW I’d be set!


The problem was nobody taught me what to put on that web site to attract customers. Some people even implied that having to attract paying clients, when one is in the business of helping people, is antithetical to the calling. Actually, the only way to be unethical is to lie or distort your claims.

The thing is – how can you help people if they don’t know that you’re willing and able to do that? Besides, you cannot NOT market. Just like the NLP adage, “you cannot not anchor,” in business you cannot not market. You either do it well or you do it badly.

In my experience, the best way to market is with the use of STORIES. Maybe it’s my own bias, with my background in Ericksonian Hypnosis, but my belief is that stories are critical to success in pretty much any human communication.

Stories are how our minds work. They are how we make sense of the world. Milton Erickson used stories and therapeutic metaphors all the time in his work with patients. Stories stick with us. Aesop’s fables are 1,500 years old, but if you say to someone “that’s like the tortoise and the hare” and they know what you’re talking about.

Professional marketers understand this. When was the last time you saw an ad on TV where the announcer listed all the ingredients of a product and carefully explained why their product was superior to their competitors? If you said “never” you win!

“Never” is the right answer. They never do that. Why? Because, while it would work fantastically for maybe 1 guy who actually bothered to pay attention, for everyone else on the planet, it just plain wouldn’t work.

What works for the rest of us are stories. Anecdotes. Relationships. Discoveries. Even something as short as one sentence about Aesop’s fables counts as a story. Stories are universally appreciated in every culture, in every circumstance. Even Einstein came up with his breakthrough in theoretical physics by imagining scenarios like surfing on a beam of light.

That’s why, in our Coaches Corner (in the monthly newseltter), we offer every month a new story you can use in your coaching or anywhere else you find it useful. This is why Nick Kemp and offer our Stories from the Outside Inn workshops. This is why I’ll be co-teaching a seminar in September in San Francisco on using stories in marketing. Stories rock.

The better you get at writing and telling good stories the more good you can do – and the better you’ll be paid, the more fun you’ll have, etc. etc. etc.  Everyone wins.

About Doug O'Brien

Doug O’Brien is a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, and a Certified Hypnotherapist. In 1988, while assisting at NLP and NAC training seminars with Anthony Robbins, Doug achieved the designation of Master Trainer. He now conducts numerous seminars of his own around the globe (specializing in the “Sleight of Mouth” patterns of Robert Dilts, NLP Certification Courses, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy) and helped found Columbia-Presbyterian’s Department of Complementary Medicine with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

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