The Power of Storytelling in Business: Building an Empire, The Write Way
As the Polar Express continues to chug through Cincinnati I’ve spent the past few snow days catching up on homework and watching a new TV series called Empire. This fabulous musical drama on Fox tells the story about the music company Lucious Lyon built off of his career as a rapper. Now the CEO of a million dollar record label, Empire Enterprises, Lucious has made a complete 360 turnaround from the life he lived as a low income Philadelphia resident, selling drugs to make money in order to provide for himself and his family with music as an outlet. A hard life he commemorates through his gift for music. If we stop and think about it, that’s what all music does; provide an outlet to express a story. Lucious touches on this point in the third episode as he comes under fire for murderous lyrics he rapped back in the past that conflict with his redeemed affluent lifestyle. He tells his criticizing interviewers “rap is an expression of somebody’s life experiences.” And this is accurate, as we see Lucious often flash back to memories of his previous life hustling drugs, killing enemies, and struggling raising his children due to his wife’s imprisonment for drug trafficking, images of a daunting life that are poured into the crevices of musical hooks and catchy melodies for millions of fans to listen to, relate with, and love. His stories are real, powerful, and intriguing enough to yield him millions of dollars in financial success.
I wasn’t familiar with the show previously, but as their fan base continues to grow every week from viewer reports I scrolled past on social media I figured it was worth watching, and now I’m hooked, all from my interest in the story. So I stopped to think. What a great way to depict the power of storytelling in business. We know from historical accounts how much people love stories. They are some of the only things we hold truest to our hearts, especially good captivating ones. I can evaluate this fact at three levels of this show to illustrate how powerful storytelling is.
First, rap music allowed Lucious to escape his lifestyle as his flashbacks depict to us. “Controversy is hip hop, that’s how we get rich,” Lucious articulates along with, “our music is a narration of an oppressed people.” He’s getting at the function of music for those with rap careers. They’re essentially telling their story. And when it’s good it can yield lots of financial capital. Second, capitalizing off those rap stories pushed Lucious to create a business and work towards creating the first publicly traded music company. Realizing the potential in great music, having his company backed by the New York Stock Exchange would ensure longevity of his fortune, as his profit could only increase as he and his artists continue to put out quality music as I would only generate more investors, a positive correlation promising exponential success. Lastly, if we take a step outside of the TV drama to reality, we see how storytelling works at a basic level if we think about the viewership of the show which rises weekly, sitting now at 13.02 million. It is because Empire is a great story to watch unfold. People are interested in seeing what is next. TV viewers are in tune with the life story of Lucious and want to continue to see it play out.
When I think of our friends in other areas of the corporate sector of the business world then, it’s hard to conceptualize why some individuals make finding a great business promotion plan so hard. Marketing professionals come up with tactic after tactic aiming to create intriguing content that can yield huge financial gain, forgetting the classic quality of a well written story. Applying the logic of the fictitious Lucious Lyon to other business fields is strategic & smart. So think of what stands out about your business, get some paper, and get expressive about the story you’re dying to tell. Convey yourself in intriguing ways to your respective stakeholders. It sings to the heart the same way as your favorite songs when it’s good.