Storytelling For Product Managers – The TL;DR Version

In my last article, I covered a powerful storytelling technique in great detail. This article is the summary (the TL;DR) version.

Do you hem and haw when asked talk about one of your accomplishments? Do you stick to a “just the facts, ma’am” approach when telling a story? Are your stories falling flat and failing to have the effect you hoped?

The Most Basic – and Effective – Story Structure

If you are struggling with any of these challenges, and want to learn to tell great stories, I have a quick and easy technique for you. It’s not going to win you a Nobel Prize in Literature, but you should find it useful if you’re struggling.

I used to struggle with my stories, too. Telling stories about myself – such as the ones you use in a job interview – were especially difficult. I was more comfortable telling stories about my customers, but I was never sure I was hitting the mark.

Here’s Something You Already Knew, But Didn’t Know How To Use

We know already that stories need a beginning, middle, and end. This is the most obvious thing in the world. But if you’re like I was, you don’t quite know what goes in each section.

Here’s what you do.

StructureExplanationExample
The beginning of the story is The Problem.Start your story with the challenge that someone - you, your customer, your market - was or is facing.“I didn't know how to tell a story. All my stories fell flat, and I didn't know how to make my stories engage my audience.”
The middle of the story is The Solution.This is what you did to solve the problem, or what your customer did with your product to achieve their goals.“I learned and started practicing a new way of telling stories that had specific formats for the beginning, middle, and end.”
The end of the story is The Results.The results are the benefits that arose from solving the problem. It should include the achievements and accolades that you received, or that your customer accomplished using your product.“Now when I tell stories people hang on my every word, and I have achieved the reputation of a raconteur and excellent storyteller.”

Two additional tips

  1. Business results – “sales went up,” “we got more customers,” “I turned around the revenue line” – are important, but typically not emotionally engaging. But they are useful to give the story gravitas.
  2. Make sure your story has emotionally engaging components both in the problem – “I was about to lose my job,” “it made me feel like an idiot” – and in the solution – “I got the reputation as an expert,” “my customer got a promotion.”

Problem-Solution-Results

This structure is called PSR – for “Problem-Solution-Results.” If you start using this structure for telling your stories about yourself, your customers, and your market, your reputation will soar.

To learn more about PSR, check my previous post.

What Are Your Storytelling Secrets?

I’d love to hear how you tell your stories. And if you have questions or thoughts, please drop a comment below!

  • […] about people, about problems that real people are facing, how they (or a hero, or our product) solved the problems, and how they changed as a […]

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    ... And I'll send you my guide to using open-ended questions for market discovery!

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