The Art of Storytelling

A couple weeks ago I attended an Intelligent.ly class lead by Adam Sigel of Aereo. We walked through the necessary elements of storytelling and how to do it for some of the projects we were currently working on. I’ll take you through the parts of his presentation.

Part 1: Product Video

One company who is fantastic at storytelling is Google. We started off the class with one of their product videos, Parisian Love.

There are two things that make this video so powerful. The first is empathy. You feel a connection to the people in the video. You begin to care about them and what happens to them. Being able to get this emotion out of the viewer is valuable for both customer and business owner. Takeaway: The secret to every business is understanding what other people think so you can make them feeling something.

The second thing is distress. Stories have challenges, problems, and things going wrong before they are fixed. It is there stories and these complications that really make you pay attention.

Part 2: Big Idea

The Big Idea is the underlying message of everything you are saying and delivering (even if you do not verbally say it). There are 3 parts that make up the Big Idea:

  1. Unique Perspective – you need to have an opinion on something.
  2. Set the Stakes – What will happen for the main character of the story? This part makes people care more and sets boundaries for the scope of the problem.
  3. One sentence – Take the unique perspective and stakes you are setting, and put it into one sentence.

Nancy Duarte speaks about the Big Idea pretty frequently. In her Harvard Business Review article, she said:

Spell out the big idea: Your primary filter should be what I call your big idea: the one key message you must communicate. Everything in your presentation should support that message. The big idea is what compels the people in the room to change their thinking or behavior — and that’s the whole reason you’re presenting to them in the first place. It’s shaped by your point of view and what’s at stake (that is, why the audience should embrace your perspective)

Part 3: Elements of Storytelling

I encourage you to look through the slides especially for this part. The slides use Star Wars as an example to really understand the different elements of storytelling.

First, we have the heroes & mentors. At first you may think businesses are the heroes, but customers are actually the heroes. Businesses are the mentors. Everything we as marketers do should be keeping this in mind and asking ourselves the question, “How can we help the hero/our customers?” It is important to solve for the customer.

Next, define the journey. In business, there will always be competition. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it also shouldn’t be ignored. You will always have competition, and you simply have to address it.

Next, the call to adventure. Treat the first time a user uses your product or service as an exciting adventure. You can do this through a video, slogan, or other channels.

Next, enemies and allies. These are the other people you meet along the way. When you go on an adventure to use an app or service, there will be other people there competing for the service but also other people you can potentially partner with. Pretending you are the only business in an industry is just unrealistic. You need to be prepared for the research your prospects will do even before you enter into discussions with them. They will have information about you as well as some of your competitors.

Anticipate resistance. You have to win over your customers. They may not realize the benefit of your product or service. They may not even realize that they need it. It is your job to foresee that and plan how to overcome it.

Define the reward. This is where you make the promise for your product, service, or app. A reward is not necessarily what you will save. For some customers that will work, but other customers don’t care as much about that. People buy products and services for very different reasons.

Takeaway: Your product is the adventure that your users have been waiting for.

Recap

  1. All emotions boil down to pleasure and pain (Nancy Duarte). What pleasure can you create with your product? What pain can you avoid with your product?
  2. Big Idea = Point of View + “so what” all in one sentence
  3. Three things that drive people – autonomy, competence, and relatedness
  4. The best products are easy to use, social, and you know what’s happening.

Read the Slides!

For those who want to check out his slides from this presentation, they are below. I would really encourage you to do this as you will get a better sense of the takeaways by doing just that.

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