04 March 2023

Book Review: Nothing Gets Sold Until The Story Gets Told

Nothing Gets Sold Until The Story Gets Told: Corporate Storytelling for Career Success and Value-Driven Marketing
by Steve Multer 
Message Master Media, 234 pages

If you’re in the marketing business, you know the difference between selling and telling.


But what if that difference isn’t what you thought?


You might think selling is what you want to do, and it requires a convincing pitch, versus telling, dismissed as just reciting facts and figures. “Show up and throw up.”


A new book turns that old wisdom around.


Selling is what you want to accomplish, but this new book says that telling – telling a story – is what closes the sale. In Nothing Get Sold Until the Story Gets Told, Steve Multer explains the role of storytelling in creating an effective message. It comes naturally for him because he tells stories for a living as a corporate presenter, spokesman, and public speaking trainer.

That’s right, a corporate presenter. It’s a perspective marketing and advertising people may not have considered, but Multer has a keen eye for all forms of marketing communication. Early in the book he describes an early form of content marketing -- from the 19th Century no less.


The Too Much Information Age

Much of the foundational thinking in the early chapters will ring true to marketers. The book describes in layman’s terms how our brains receive messages, categorizing them as no-value, low-value, medium-value, and high value. Very few messages make it to the high-value category, the ones that speak to us on a personal level first. Chapter 4 is a perspective in knowing your audience, which is the first rule of advertising. Chapters 5 and 6 are about clarifying your message. Successive chapters are about how to create and deliver the message.


This is not a trite book about public speaking, either. Multer debunks hackneyed advice like “open with a joke,” “tell a funny story,” or “shock your audience to gain their interest.” Those are tropes that don’t give your audience anything meaningful. (If we're honest, Super Bowl advertising has become a showcase for similar tropes that don’t give the audience anything meaningful.)


Passion is a word that comes up in the book frequently. That may not always be appropriate in an advertisement, but it is always appropriate in preparing an advertisement. You know how when you see a great ad, you know that the work has been loved by the people who made it? That’s passion showing through.


By the time you get to the chapter “From Corporate Speak to Human Conversation” you’ll see that this book really does apply to marketing and advertising, not just presentations. That said, we’re all presenters at some point in our work weeks. You’ll find a lot of solid advice for effective storytelling, including even how to make power point (and Zoom) work for you, not against you.


Coming back around to the title, we might agree that the best advertisements have always been the ones that tell stories. An ad that tells a story is always going to be more memorable. My two rules of effective advertising: (1) Impossible to describe the ad without mentioning the product. (2) Impossible to forget what brand created it. Stories make that possible.

Between each chapter is a short essay by someone who tells stories: an art historian, a musician, a documentarian, a playwright, a rabbi, an actor, others, and me. Yes, full disclosure, I contributed a page to this book, which naturally told a story about presenting an ad campaign to a client. Read my story here but look for Steve Multer’s book here