Storytelling Rocks at Google

Google organized the world’s information and gave people access to it in a few simple clicks. Today, in the same world it transformed, Google has a challenge. If data is freely available, how does a company stand apart from its competitors?

Meet Avinash Kaushik. His official title is Digital Marketing Evangelist, but internally he’s known as Google’s ‘Chief Storyteller.’ He’s THE most passionate executive I’ve ever met on the topic of storytelling and how it can make massive changes in a company’s business.

“My job is to change the way Googlers tell stories,” Kaushik said during my visit to his Google office in Mountain View, California. Along with a team of 75 people, Kaushik holds “Storytelling Rocks” workshops to spread the gospel of storytelling to 4,000 account leads, sales and marketing professionals who are responsible for billions of dollars in annual revenue.

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“Avinash, when people think of Google, they think of search. They think of data. What role does storytelling play?” I asked.

“Storytelling is a powerful way to get our clients to think differently,” says Kaushik.

Kaushik points out that Google provides an immense amount of data to clients who can use the information to make transformative changes in their business. But a data dump will fail to help customers if they can’t make sense of it. That’s where Kaushik and his storytellers step in. “The size and the scope of the change we drive is so big, that I think it is best done with stories,” says Kaushik.

The Google Storytelling Framework

Kaushik has developed a storytelling framework called: Care-Do-Impact. Like everything at Google, it is carefully measured for its effectiveness. Presenters are even given letter grades on how well they perform each step of the framework.

Step 1: Care. Kaushik recommends that a Google sales or marketing professional spend the first 20% of a presentation explaining the amazing “out-of-sight” that could transform the client’s business. An “insight” is a small piece of information that the client might already know; an “out-of-sight” is knowledge that is exclusive to the company making the presentation, information that can radically change a client’s business.

Step 2: Do. Kaushik suggests that a full 50% of the presentation be spent on helping the client or customer understand what they should do with the information. This step requires account leads to understand the clients’ business in a remarkably deep way. “We’re creating a competitive advantage for Google because we will know more about your business than anyone else who comes to see you,” says Kaushik.

Step 3: Impact. The remaining 20% of the presentation is spent explaining the impact of Google’s ‘out-of-sight’ on the customer’s future success. Kaushik leaves room in the presentation (10% of time) for the speaker to be interrupted with questions.

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According to Kaushik, this framework represents a fundamental shift in presenting data. Where many companies overwhelm customers and prospects with mountains of data, a Google pitch must give equal weight to the data and how it will impact the company’s business.

“There is a massive amount of interest among our sales team for storytelling,” says Kaushik. And the way we’re going to accomplish a shift in culture at Google is to make everyone a storyteller. It’s very exciting. How often in your life do you get a chance to change people’s minds? I tell stories that fundamentally change the way you think about something, and that’s exciting.”

Google has recognized the power of storytelling to propel its business forward in the 21st century.  It’s an important lesson all of us should learn if we hope to stand out in an ultra-competitive global marketplace.

Carmine Gallo is  a popular keynote speaker and bestselling author. His new book is “The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers To Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t.” 

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