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How do you improve your storytelling? These simple scripts will help you — in less than 15 minutes.

by JERRY SILVER // Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Digital PR specialist and CEO at Spin Factory

So this weekend, I’ve found that winning an imaginary lottery, Finding Nemo and Billy Idol all have something in common.

If you’re looking to improve your storytelling, then I have three perfect ways for you to challenge your brain and get some great results in the process.

And the best part: Neither of these techniques should take you more than 15 minutes to try.

Here goes:

The Pixar Pitch

Emma Coats, story-artist at Pixar, has broken down the key elements of great storytelling in a very elegant way.

The Pixar Pitch, made famous by Dan Pink in his book To Sell Is Human, is a great way for you to find a narrative, a storyline, in your business.

Here’s the script for you to try:

Once upon a time there was _________. Every day _________. One day _________. Because of that _________. Because of that _________. Until finally _________.

Jay Connor of Working Differently gives this example of a plot for Finding Nemo:

1. Once upon a time, there was a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
2. Every day Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
3. One day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
4. Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.
5. Because of that Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.
6. Until finally Marvin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.

When I tried this for my agency, Spin Factory, here’s what I came up with:

Once upon a time, there were no computers and no internet.

Every day, the great companies of planet Earth had to rely on a few wealthy mass distributors of propaganda to reach their consumers.

One day, the advancements of information technology exploded, and all companies had to change their way of reaching out, but most had few ideas on how to do this.

Because of that, evil pundits posing as “social media experts” started making lots of money from great companies by convincing them to pollute the digital universe with even more clutter and complexity.

Because of that, Jerry Silver struggled long and hard with the idea that maybe great companies should do the opposite; instead of trying to communicate everything, everywhere and all the time, they should focus on making the world a little bit clearer instead?

Until finally, one day, Jerry decided to take a leap of faith together with a small group of brave companies, all tired of pushing one message after the other with no effect, and so the agency Spin Factory was founded.

The Rebel Yell Statement

Maybe you work to earn money, put food on the table and hopefully have some fun in the process. But is that all? Maybe there’s also something deeper, a core purpose, that drives us to go the extra mile?

In a guest post on Ryan Lee, Why Rebels get Rich, copywriter Kevin Rogers published this simple yet effective script, The Rebel Yell Statement, named after the legendary rock anthem by Billy Idol.

My name is _________, I love _________ but was fed up with _________. So I created _________ that _________.

This is of course quite similar to the Pixar Pitch above, but where the former helps you understand the basic story of your business, the Rebel Yell Statement helps you put the finger on your core reason for being in business.

Here’s an example by Kevin Rogers of a person you might recognize:

“My name is Steve, I love computers but was fed up with the snail’s pace of commercial technology. So I created a user-friendly computer that processes information faster than anything else out there today.”

Here’s the Rebel Yell Statement I wrote for this blog, Doktor Spinn:

My name is Jerry, I love public relations, but was fed up with “dinosaur agencies” giving clients bullshit advice on digital marketing. So I created a blog that shares knowledge based on academic research, hands-on experience, and passion.

The Lottery Question

Imagine your organization won the lottery, and money no longer is a primary motivator. You and your co-workers are now taken care of financially, and the brand has earned notoriety by having the winning ticket.

Taking money out of the equation might seem counterintuitive for a business. But if you try this thought model for your company, you’ll find that some critical values fall out.

So ask yourself this question:

With all that money in the bank, what would your company do next?

Here’s how I imagine this scenario for our agency Mad Science Digital:

The right people would hand in their resignations, and the good people would stay. And I would do nothing to influence anyone’s decision.

Great minds need time for reflection to grow stronger and happier, so we would have more vacation time than the usual industry standard.

We would set aside time each week to explore new academic research and interact with the scientific community on behavioral research, human psychology, and online marketing.

I wouldn’t go out on a frantic hiring spree with all that money, but instead, invest heavily in the people we already have.

We would say no to working with clients if we don’t feel passionate about their business objectives.

Our kickoffs, conferences and team building travels would be so epic that it would be ridiculous.

We would do pro bono work for important non-profits that can’t afford our expertise otherwise.

In spite of having all that money in our bank accounts, we would still work hard because we consider hard work to be a virtue and a way of life.

Now, the question is, what could we implement today — even without winning an actual lottery?

Improve your storytelling with the The Rebel Yell statement.

Rebels think differently.

What do you think of these techniques? Let me know in the comment section.

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Behind the keyboard:

Jerry Silver is the author of Doctor Spin, a PR blog that's been around for 15+ years. Via his agency Spin Factory, Jerry is advising brands on how to adapt to a 'digital first' world. In 2016, Cision Scandinavia named him "PR Influencer of the Year". Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, news anchor and television host, and their three-year-old son, Jack.


Doctor Spin’s comment policy:
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Reader reactions:

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fredrik

Good stuff. Really like when you use your self in the examples. If anyone like to dive a bit deeper in to how to turn the pitch/story in to a plot check this Pixar workshop. http://ftorstensson.com/2013/09/15/pitcha-den-som-pixar/

Reply
Jerry Silfwer

Awesome videos, Fredrik. Pixar seems to be doing lots of things well.

I also actually have an older post on the subject of storytelling that might be worth a read: http://doktorspinn.com/2013/02/07/10-storytelling-elements/

I know the infographic in that post is really ugly (my bad!), so focus on the content, ha ha.

Erik Starck

Just read Save the Cat. A book about how to write a hit movie script. Highly recommended for anyone working with stories (that is, almost everyone).

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Jerry Silfwer

Oh, now you’re just teasing. I’ve been secretly dreaming since I was a kid about writing a movie script. Gah, when should I find the time to do this? :)

Thanks for stopping by Erik, great tip — it goes on my Amazon wishlist immediately!

Anders H.

Trying the first part –

Once upon a time there was a sugar producing company in Sweden.
Every year they worried that they would not meet the production quotas allotted to them by the EU due to losses by bad storage conditions out in the fields during winter. The farmers therefore had to produce more sugar beet roots than needed to compensate the potential losses in storage. This overproduction was costly for the farmers, the sugar producer and the environment.
One day Johnny made a mobile app for the sugar producing company to calculate calcium needs for their contracted farmers.
Because of that Johnny got a question if a mobile phone could be used to supervise the storage of sugar beets so the losses could be kept at a minimum.
Because of that Johnny asked me with a background in electronics if we could develop such a system. We did. We also started the company Sensefarm. Then we asked other people what they could use the system for and developed it further…
Until finally the system had evolved from reducing risks in sugar beet storage into a company that helps reduce CO2-emissions in cities and guards against drought introduced hunger in Africa. Potentially saving millions of lives.

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Jerry Silfwer

Boom!!! Great job, Anders! Not just with the text, with your journey as well!

Niklas Myhr

Good post and great idea for all of us to first clarify our own stories before having a realistic shot at making the world clearer to others :) Agree that many “social” media efforts are beginning to look like almost spam-like clutter and that simply increasing the frequency of posts could hurt more than it helps. That being said, I am not convinced that every social media posting should be scrutinized with a quality/value-added microscope, then you would risk killing the maintenance of a minimum presence, spontaneity, and human touch.

When it comes to your statement of what you would do if money weren’t the issue, I would submit that even on a tighter budget, engaging with the wrong clients could hurt you even in the short term. Yes, I respect that it is difficult to say no to money when it’s needed. However, your current and most-valuable employees may become demoralized and decide to leave if forced to work for a client with questionable values. Current and prospective clients may also not want to be helped by a company serving the “dark side” (however that is defined).

Reply
Jerry Silfwer

As a communications professional working with several brands ranging in both size and type of industry, I can tell you this with utter certainty:

Humanity, clarity, authenticity — all of that stems not from spontaneity, but from hard work. “Shooting from the hip” sounds great and transparent in theory, but as we’ve seen this in practice during the era of the Hippie Web, I think it’s safe to say that it drains resources, doesn’t produce the desired results and confuses followers.
On the social web, as a business entity, you need to be clearer than ever and when you post, you need to make sure you put something out there that counts.
Now, you could have a “don’t think too much before you post strategy”, but only if you’ve tested your assumption that this will produce those business results you’re looking for.

Niklas Myhr

Jerry, reading your comment, it appears as if I may have overstated my counterpoint as I fundamentally agree with your argument in favor of higher clarity and agreement about what the values a brand stands for. That is, I am not suggesting that companies ask all employees to go wild and spontaneously clutter the web with random thoughts, only that there could be some degrees of freedom so that not every tweet needs to be micromanaged by a command chain. Informed spontaneity may be a better phrase to capture what I was after. Then again, I respect if you have found that even every post out there needs to be put under the microscope and I am willing to be proven wrong if I learn that it pays to go all the way to that extreme :)

Jerry Silfwer

Freedom? What kind of liberal stuff is that? ;) No, only joking of course, ha! But I see your point. The best companies in digital marketing however run a tight ship and I think that’s good. But individual employees should be encouraged to endorse (and say what they will) and act as ambassadors for their organisation, which I think is closer to your point.
This is of course a super interesting discussion in itself (and it really deserves its own post), but I often create a matrix (hey I’m a consultant) with PUBLIC, PROFESSIONAL, PRIVATE and PERSONAL. Just to keep things apart and to explain what needs to go through legal and marketing and what needs to come from people’s own free will! :)

Elia Mörling

This is absolutely brilliant. I think I will give it a spin right away…

My name is Elia Mörling, I love building win-win relationships sustained by culture, but I was fed up with all of these top-down and inside-out schemes focused on individuals. So I created Tribaling that helps companies and organizations become truely customerS-centric by building and supporting tribes.

Reply
Jerry Silfwer

Tribal marketing FTW! Go, Elia.

William Cosgrove

Here’s the beginning of one one I just published:
A Tale of Social Media and Cin-e-ma-zoo [Video]

It was the night before Christmas, well very close, and all through the house the creatures were stirring because everything was in doubt. A knock at the door and who would appear but a scrooge with an eviction notice- this was no Christmas cheer for Cin-e-ma-zoo.

One cold day in December After year twenty-two – Gary Oliver, CinemaZoo’s founder did not know what to do.

CinemaZoo the Pacific Northwest’s largest private sanctuary for exotic creatures was founded on the good intentions of people who acquired an exotic pet but didn’t think it through. That exotic bird was beautiful but was too loud and that cute little sugar glider looked like a cuddly pet but it was noisy all night and would emit nasty things if you tried to hold it. And that pet monitor lizard- it just ate the owner’s cat……

Reply
Jerry Silfwer

Cool. Is there a link to where we can read the rest? :)

Sean

Jerry-

Thanks so much fr this post.
As stated above, I believe it is vital that we must “clarify our own stories” if we want to be sought out to become part of other people’s stories and positively impact their lives.
So…
My name is Sean Glaze, I love working with teams and developing leaders but was fed up with the lack of information and interactive opportunities available for really impactful team building experiences. So I created Great Results Teambuilding that provides motivational team leadership keynotes and fun team building events that help groups like yours improve communication skills, boost morale, and become better teammates!

Reply
Jerry Silfwer

Very clear and concise Sean, excellent! Thank you for sharing and good luck with GRT!

Maria Gustafsson

Hej Jerry,
Tack för din insiktsfulla och även roliga text som inspirerade mig att fortsätta resonera om hur vi kan använda vår tid för att skapa värdefullt innehåll.

Allt gott!
Maria Gustafsson @mikumaria

Reply
Ludvig Sunström

Very useful scripts!
Just copied this to my commonplace’s checklist section.
:)

Thank you!

Reply