“Don’t ever underestimate the power of a story. Even if the story has to do with bacterial infections and chickens,” Josh Muccio, host of The Pitch.
The Pitch from Gimlet Media showcases founders of start-ups as they sell the story of their business to a panel of investors. This podcast illustrates the real-world application of what a good story does for a business.
In this episode, a scientist Amado Guloy is trying to explain how his startup Rex Animal Health combines farm animals and big data. His explanation focused on data, science, and numbers. The investors interjected every few seconds struggling to understand what his business did until he told the following story.
“Rex can reduce the risk of disease, improve the treatment of health problems, and ultimately deliver more animals from farm to table. I’ll just give you a use case of something that we did. There were chickens with a high incidence of really bad bacterial infection. And unfortunately, a lot of the drugs weren’t working because it was an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So, we took a step back and looked at the data in total. We realised the ones that got an infection, got it through a skin lesion. Long story short, we found out it was genetic and the chickens that got it had that deficiency.”
The investors let out a collective “Ohhhh!” as the light switched on for them. That story explained why Rex exists, what it does, and now they’re ready to do what they do best. Start poking holes in the business.
We like to imagine that investors are only interested in numbers, plain and simple. But they need a short and simple story to give those numbers meaning. A concise story helps create the value of the business, especially if you are looking for investment.
Storytelling is really story-selling. Showing people with a clear story helps your customers, clients and coworkers will understand what you do and why they need it.
Don’t let storytelling be a struggle, join me at General Assembly in Melbourne on March 13th, 2018 to Discover Your Business Narrative.
With the launch of The Boring Company, Elon Musk shows us he is all about the underground, including his marketing. The Boring Company is developing high-speed travel tubes to help ease inter-city traffic. Also, you can buy a flamethrower on the site. Yep, a flamethrower with the Boring Company logo on the side. Is anyone struggling to make the cognitive leap between a flame-based toy and a high-speed car travel tube?
Want to learn to market like Elon? Sign up here for my free webinar on “Storytelling: How To Dream and Market Like Elon”.
What is this stunt with the flamethrowers all about? He is not looking for funding, the project is privately funded according to the FAQs. If a Flamethrower isn’t really your vibe, you could also purchase a hat with the Boring Company logo. I say could as in past tense, because everything has sold out.
Sold out. Yes, that is right, 50,000 hats gone. As far as the flamethrower is concerned it is $500 to place a pre-order. As to the total amount of pre-orders available, no one is totally sure.
There is a lot of speculation as to why a company that is ‘boring’ tunnels underground to solve growing problem of traffic is selling flamethrowers. At 500 dollars a pop, if they sell, 20,000 that is a solid $10,000,000. A fantastic way to crowdfund a project without giving anyone any actual ownership in the project.
So, assuming this all happens, what has Elon actually sold?
This is why Elon is an exceptional person. He wants to send us into outer space, underground and to Mars. None of these things have eventuated yet. But the fact that he is consistently able to sell the dream of what is possible and what is to come illustrates his powerful grasp of storytelling.
What does a good story do? It captures the audience’s hearts and minds. What is the story link between flamethrowers and tunnel-based travel? I cannot tell you. Maybe it will become apparent in time.
But the story he was slowly building with a series of tweets starting last year was all it took to get the ball rolling and launch the not so boring, Boring Company.
He is giving people a narrative to go with the Flamethrower. A flamethrower on its own, confusing, a flamethrower with a hilarious ‘rumour’. Genius!
Elon is often described as enigmatic. A perfect character for a good story. A crafty tale that keeps you coming back for more, is one that is open to interpretation. If it is too straightforward with no mystery to solve, the next shiny story that comes along will steal our attention.
Will we ever know what the link is between Flamethrowers and high-speed travel via tunnels? Probably not and I am not sure I want to know.
In order to consistently sell the ‘dream’ of what something could be, or of what is to come, it is better to leave it open-ended.
This is the best way to sell dreams. Fire up the creativity and the imagination of the audience and then sell their own vision back to them. Even when the projects will take years and the combined belief of millions of people.
We must all dream together to make the future a place we want to live. Whether Elon’s version of the future is the right version or the best version doesn’t matter. What does matter is he is telling the stories of the future he wants to see.
In the future, marketing will be less about how to capture attention. The future of marketing is capturing the imagination. This includes broadening your reach with the city you are planning on building the first tunnel in. Local Politicians in LA are now thinking about banning the toy flamethrower, see the statement from councillor Santiago below. And in the process, more people in LA might learn about the large-scale public transportation solution. Well played Elon, well played.
That is what Elon Musk is good at. Capturing the imagination of the masses. Getting ordinary Joes thinking that traveling to outer space is something that is accessible to anyone, not just astronauts. Seeing the power of traveling in a car through a tube underground. Living on Mars.
This will not happen unless enough people believe that it is true. The future is like Tinkerbell, if enough people believe, clapping hands is probably optional, it will become reality. Or for the more pragmatic, Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way, you are right.”
Capturing the imaginations of your clients, customers and fans is the marketing of the future. And a good story doesn’t have to be clear-cut. In fact, the keys to a good story are tension, interpretation and a clear message.
How do you sell something no one can see or experience if you first don’t sell the dream.
Want to learn to market like Elon? Sign up here for my free webinar on “Storytelling: How To Dream and Market Like Elon”.
What are you waiting for? The future?
The future is made entirely of dreams.
Start. Yours. Now.
“Strong Opinions Weakly Held”
This phrase originated with Paul Saffro, Director of Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future. In a discussion about wisdom, Bob Johansen of the Institute allegedly explained to Bob Sutton that to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward, the Institute advises people to have “strong opinions, which are weakly held.”
Grab a compass and map. Plot your path, but be prepared to change your course when needed.
We are living times that can feel very fast-moving, volatile and uncertain. How do we prepare ourselves for this uncertain future? What skills will we need? What will the job market look like in 5, 10 or even 20 years? What new technologies are being developed that could create a threat to humanity? Where are the flying cars? Come on already I want one!
Ok, jokes aside, the world is changing. The old structures, silos, and routines that are part of most business’s day to day operations are becoming a hindrance to innovation. We are entering a new epoch that values agility, innovation, and creativity.
Welcome to the age of storytelling. We are standing on the precipice of a new world order, where visionaries will lead through their ability to tell stories. Storytellers are powerful. They create the world that we live in now and the one to come.
So Why Learn To Harness And Tell Your Own Story?
Your business’s organic story is unique. Unlike corporate colours, logos or taglines, it is not a conceptual piece of marketing. It is an organic narrative that unfolds with each passing day. It shifts with each decision, such as, new hires and evolving products and services. It cannot be replicated and it cannot be predicted. It must simply unfold. This is truly powerful when future proofing your brand or business. There can be similarities. But there are no two that are exactly the same. No other business has the exact unique blend of human capital and stories that you have.
Part of imagining where the future is going is understanding our current moment in time. To do this well we must understand our business’s story. It has a cast of characters, plot lines and twists and turns. An authentic and well-crafted story makes your business the main protagonist, as opposed to a secondary character. By focusing on your own story you let the narrative unfold and see how it moves you forward.
This unique story woven through content production, internal communications, presentations, and speeches creates memorable experiences. This attention leads to retention in your client or customer’s memory. This is the most precious real estate that you can own.
Storytelling is future proofing your brand. It is possible to copy a website’s look and feel. A competitor may develop a similar product or service. But no other business will have your experiences or diversity of skills of your unique story.
Let your story do the work. An organic story told slowly over time builds solid relationships and trust. A presentation featuring vision and dreams is always more inspiring than a bar graph. All the growth behind the spikes on the chart could not happen without the vision in the first place.
And the vision comes from the people. The empathy and connections formed via a strong story, allows a company to become agile, to reinvent itself as it changes. It works in partnership with the business and walks alongside it as it forges new paths into the future.
As a chronicler of business’s stories, I have seen this magic unfold again and again. And so I am calling all the brave and bold artists, corporates, business owners and change makers! The best way to predict our futures to create it. Let us all join together and tell the stories of the future we want to create. We have never had such an unprecedented ability to influence and affect our world.
And so I ask you, what story will you tell and where will it take you?
I recently ran an event at ACMI in November, The Evolution of Storytelling. I asked my presenters to explore the possibilities of storytelling in the future. Please have a look at the Hashtag on Twitter or on my Instagram.
Communicating between different teams such as creative and tech can present challenges. Are you are facing this problem within your business or organisation? A simple story may be just the thing you need.
Use the power of stories within your organisation to create a strategic way to inspire, education or motivate your employees, co-workers or clients.
Step 1 – Make Your Staff Heroes
There is a plot device in storytelling called the Hero’s Journey. The mythologist Joseph Campbell coined this term. He says that all stages of a hero’s journey are similar. First, adventure calls a character to accept a journey. The character then try’s to talk himself or herself out of taking the challenge. The call is eventually answered and the hero goes on to meet their destiny. For example, when Clark Kent accepts his extraordinary powers and becomes Superman. The challenge and journey represent the process of becoming yourself. It is also what unlocks your ability to help those around you.
Examine the stories of your staff to uncover their special superpowers. Their stories create connection around their personal and business goals to move them all forward. Stories ‘show’ their co-workers the kind of person they are, what their skills are and what makes each team member unique.
Step 3 – Make Work Meaningful
We all want to belong to something greater than ourselves.
It can be easy to get trapped in patterns or cycles within organisations with long-standing ways of working. Patterns can feel comfortable, but if a team’s goals are not aligned with their current path, it can make them feel impossible.
To make the impossible possible it is important to break free of tired cycles. An outsider’s fresh perspective can identify the well-worn paths under our feet we cannot see. What happens when we decide to leap off this path. Where do we go when this happens?
Leaving a path, to branch off into the unknown can feel like meandering, when in fact it is exploring. Exploring can bring us closer to goals. Staying locked in a cycle eventually leads us back to the beginning of where we started, this is not helpful when change is needed. A helicopter or bird’s eye view is needed as sometimes the cycle is so big it is possible to confuse it for forward motion. If in a year’s time everything feels eerily familiar it is because the cycle was so big it was hard to see the curve in the bend.
A clear vision creates a new path by planning for the future. Discovering that vision as a team makes it feel possible. All change starts with something that feels just beyond our reach, but if we all try just a bit harder we will get there together.
Imagine something that is completely new. Something you didn’t even think was possible. Make it possible and abandon the old cycle, so a new one can be forged!
Be Clear About How You Are Managing Transitions
It can feel unsettling when organisations are in a transition phase. The reality is in life is change is a constant, it is important to focus on making changes that create positive results.
We only know what we know at any given moment. As situations and co-workers around us flux and flow, the direction or the organisation will change.
This process feels better and more comfortable when you are aware that other people are changing as well. Staying flexible and understanding how people and circumstances are changing is very important.
Consider each step into the future as one on a shifting road. To monitor this ensure that part of your change management process includes gathering the stories and sentiments of the staff to understand where they are on their own journey.
Moving from one team or way of working to another can feel like leaping across a chasm. Teaching your team how to build their own bridges is the best way forward.
If you found this useful, please share this with your colleagues! For those of you in Melbourne join me and the Innovators Network on October 11 5:45 pm at the RACV club. Email email@example.com for more your invitation or more information!
Ana is a cultural producer. She specialises in the exploration of emerging technology – its creative application, and how it can be used to grow public engagement in arts and culture. Her role at Museums Victoria is to lead the creative development and production of major long-term exhibitions projects. Ana has worked extensively in the UK with major cultural organisations such as Somerset House, the Barbican Centre, and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra to produce exhibitions, installations and interactive projects.
She has also worked with design consultancies, software developers and has independently produced a range of projects at the intersections of art, science and technology. She is currently researching the future of arts and culture, and how museums might best design themselves for change.
In her talk Ana asks the question, how might the use of data and AI change the way we think about and tell stories in the gallery and exhibition space? She will guide us on an exploration of the futures of immersive and spatial storytelling.
To learn more about Ana visit her website – http://anatiquia.com
Working in an innovation space can feel lonely when only a small number of people outside of your team understand what you are trying to accomplish. Or you are proudly rolling out a new project that solves a client’s problem, but they don’t understand how they fit in the solution. The program may be badly needed, but if the people who need your service don’t understand how it helps them, it won’t succeed. It is impossible to sell a product or service if you cannot clearly define it to your ideal customer, clients or co-workers.
Seeing your concept with an unbiased point of view is sometimes called ‘The Curse of Knowledge”. While you may understand the value that you deliver if you cannot concisely explain why someone needs your offering getting a ‘yes’ can be very difficult. This applies to work colleagues as well to clients. If you cannot convey why a new process is important or what the changes to a program mean it is very difficult to get people to comply.
We can solve this problem with a strategic narrative.
A narrative strategy distils a complex concept into a simple story to create clarity around a project, product or service. This shareable story assists in forming a culture of understanding around your innovative solution to motivate people to get on board.
Let’s explain this in further detail with a simple story.
Your ‘Story’ needs to cross the bridge that divides a ‘New Project’ from the land of ‘Implementation’. Once the ‘Story’ journeys across this bridge it explains where it is going to people in the land of ‘Implementation’. ‘Story’ is successful on its journey because people in ‘Implementation’ understand how they can help it on its way.
This is how a story can work to bridge the gap between a new product or service and being embraced by clients, colleagues or the community.
True innovation relies on a clear vision for the future. This is where understanding your unique story becomes truly powerful.
Stories are not born spontaneously in a magical puff of smoke; they are shepherded into the world by a guide and supported by a flock. This shepherd is a strategic narrative advisor who creates clarity around the story of your work so it can move into the future.
Creating the world that we will live in tomorrow requires a bridge to connect your vision to a community. Let your story do the work for you.
Let’s chat! Schedule your 15-minute strategy call now!
“Whatever You Are Seeking Is Seeking You.”
Rumi was a was a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, among many other things. He was a very busy and talented man to say the very least. And he wrote the words quoted above. It is hard to imagine, but this statement has travelled through translations and centuries before it appeared in this post. Is it a bit mind boggling isn’t it? But we found each other none the less.
It seems logical and impossible at the same time. But it did, who we are looking for is, in turn, looking for the people who are like us. Rest assured they are out there.
Now the next question is why? Why or how did this statement find me, how did it come to my attention?
For me the answer is –
- I found it interesting
- It responded to a question I had around how people manage to find and connect with the right people
- It excited my imagination
- That excitement lead me to write this so I could share it with you
Sharing content that excites and speaks to you is not new. In fact, this is an ancient practice that predates Facebook! This is why the beautiful poetry of Rumi exists in our world centuries after it was written. As new generations of people find him, they, in turn, share him and so on and so forth.
To spread your message, be like Rumi –
- Fashion a straightforward and inspiring message or story
- Share it
- Wait for it to come back to you
I know what you are thinking! How can I become a 13th-century mystic poet? It is ok; you don’t have to. We will take the points I made above and make them work for us in a modern context.
Your story must be simple so that people will remember it. It should also deliver a message that delights the individual who finds it. The surprising power of pleasure is unquantifiable.
I recently listened to a podcast featuring Adam Robinson. Robinson repeatedly stressed that giving the gift of unexpected pleasure will return to you in ways you could never foresee or expect. This will open doors and provide insurmountable opportunities for your future.
This brings me to the reason I am sharing Rumi’s quote with you. I am launching a new style of an agency, a storytelling agency. We do more than digital marketing; we create culture! We are expert storytellers that build relationships to take your business into the future.
We look at you, your business, project or service. We find the best story gems and fashion them into ongoing narrative content. We then find the best way to tell that story as serialised content. Like chapters in a book or the next episode of your favourite TV show. We will have the audience asking, ‘What happened next?’ and coming back for more!
From FacebookLive to newsletters, to a 360-degree video, each story is told through the medium that gives it the most power.
We monitor the story as it evolves to ensure it continues to delight your audience. We want them to share it with their community as well.
And this brings us back to the beginning, whatever you are seeking is seeking you.
Stories make us feel good. Yup, that good.
According to novelist and neurologist, Robert Burton, when we hear something with a beginning, middle, and an end, we get a hit of dopamine. Dopamine is our natural feel-good, high chemical. This is why we love and are addicted to stories. From childhood fairytales to novels, to TV shows and movies, stories have us hooked.
From an evolutionary standpoint getting high on stories makes sense. Stories serve many purposes in society. A few of the primary functions are to educate, inspire, motivate or entertain. A story that creates a shared point of view allows us to see from the same place of understanding. This is key to creating a culture of agreement and shared values.
The following is a story my mother told me about road safety when I was a little girl.
When my mother was a girl she lived next door to a boy who liked to play basketball in his front yard. One day, when he was playing ball, it bounced out into the street. He ran after it, without looking both ways. A car swerved to miss him, but it was too late. He was rushed to the hospital with a broken leg and needed a cast. Even worse than that he needed bed rest and his birthday was a few days away. He had to miss his own birthday party. And that’s why you always look both ways before crossing the road.
When you are a kid death is a big concept to grasp. Even as an adult, it is difficult to come to terms with. But missing your own birthday party? That is terrible, we all know that!
I am now an adult, but I will never forget that story. It has taught me to remember to look before crossing the street and become a useful storytelling tool. Thanks, Mum!
It is a simple story, but the message is clear, ‘Always look both ways before crossing the road.’
Are there any challenges you are facing within your business or organisation? A simple story maybe just the thing you need. Imagine a story that explains how a product or service works, or a narrative that inspires your customers to follow you on a social media storytelling journey.
A narrative strategy could be just the ticket. A narrative strategy uses the power of stories within your personal or professional realm to create a strategic way to inspire, education or motivate your employees, co-workers or clients.
I used the story of the little boy who missed his own birthday to explain how attaching a story to a message is effective. It conveys a message in a memorable and efficient way. The right stories addressing the right pain points within your business or organisation will create the same results.
If you want a hit of story, get in touch about my mini-narrative strategy sessions. I come to your location and run a short session to create a story for a problem that you need to solve.
Feed your story addition with me, it will feel good, I promise!
“I went to the hospital to remove the knife that I had swallowed. When the surgeon found the five others in my stomach it turned into a much bigger ordeal than anticipated.”
Want to hear more? Yes you do. A person swallowing one knife, let alone five is shocking.
I paraphrased this from a webinar I took with Alex Bloomberg of Planet Money and Gimlet Media fame. Alex focused on the power of surprise to create an engaging story. The quote was from an interview he conducted with a person who had a compulsion to eat metal objects. Alex knew the person went into surgery to remove a knife, but the subsequent five was a complete surprise.
During the webinar Alex played the audio of the original broadcast. He was so surprised he exclaimed, ‘What the f*ck!” The radio version was beeped, so why did he choose to keep this strong reaction in? He explained moments of surprise give stories power. If the interviewer was surprised, they know their audience will be as well. The shock expressed by the interviewer helps to build the dramatic tension as they and the audience get to the bottom of this shocking statement together.
To tell a story with a hook or surprise might sound hard, but it is achievable. First you have to understand why the story you are telling is interesting before you can find the element of surprise.
Alex Bloomberg has a formula to achieve this. My story is about (X) and it is interesting because (Y). If I was to apply this formula to the story about the knives above it might go something like this –
“My story is about a person who can’t who can’t stop swallowing metal objects. They are so fearful of judgment they hide their condition from everyone. Even from doctors, including one who was operating to remove a knife they had swallowed and during the operation found five more knives inside their stomach.”
The theme of this story is people who suffer from mental health issues often find it difficult reaching out for help. This is a troubling situation, but without a unique angle it won’t necessarily create an engaging narrative.Delving into a uniquely personal story about mental health to find a unique twist makes it a sticky story.
I heard that story just once and I can recall it very easily. When creating a story for a blog post, an article or even a presentation, if it doesn’t contain a surprising insight, you haven’t dug deep enough.
What are you waiting for? Get digging!