The Ingredients of a Great Story

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I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about the ‘secret’ of great storytelling and how the marketing community can get better at creating and delivering compelling narratives for both internal audiences (the organization) and external audiences (the consumer)

These are (I think) the key ingredients of a great story

1. You’re Rooting For the Protagonist

By protagonist, I mean either the brand at the centre of the story or the consumer you’re discussing. The audience needs to feel empathy and truly care about what happens to them, otherwise the story won’t be compelling. This doesn’t mean that the hero of the story needs to be flawless and attractive. However, we need to be ‘on their side’, rooting for them.

2. There’s Tension and Drama

A great story can’t be one-paced otherwise we lose interest. There needs to be, a fight against the odds or a big obstacle that needs to be overcome, some scary bits..whatever is appropriate. We enjoy being on an emotional rollercoaster. We enjoy being put through the mill

3. You Can Relate to It

There should be anecdotes, cultural references, scenarios that the audience can relate to, so they feel yes….that’s so true. So you need to have a clear picture of who we’re writing for. We also love familiar stories – good defeating evil, boy meets girl, winning against the odd. Stick to familiar themes and narratives. We never get bored with them

4. You’re Working For Your Lunch

Don’t lay out the plot or the characters too obviously. Don’t over-explain. Respect the intelligence of the audience and allow them to work it out for themselves, join up the dots and make the connections. However, don’t go to the other extreme so people so feel confused or lost. Try and strike a balance.

5. There’s Structure and Resolution

Make sure there’s a beginning a middle and an end. Tie up all the loose ends so there’s a definiitive ending – ideally a happy one – but at least make sure there’s no ambiguity. We hate it when we’ve invested time and effort in a story and there are too many loose ends

As Seth Godin said (see previous post) telling authentic, compelling, stories that people are prepared to believe and share is what great marketing is all about. We should all get better at creating them.

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