I like to think about how to tell better stories.
If you’re looking to improve your storytelling, then I have three perfect ways for you to challenge your inner storyteller:
- The Pixar Pitch
- The Rebel Yell
- The Lottery Question
And the best part: Neither of these three techniques should take you more than 15 minutes to try for yourself.
The Pixar Pitch
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. Emma Coats, story-artist at Pixar, has broken down the key elements of great storytelling in a very elegant way. 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:
Once upon a time, there was a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
Every day Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
One day in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
Because of that, he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.
Because of that Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.
Until finally Marvin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.
As I tried this for my own freelance business, Spin Factory, here’s what I came up with:
Once upon a time, there were no internet.
Every day, companies had to rely on a few powerful mass media distributors to market to their consumers.
One day, the advancements in information technology exploded, and all companies had to change their way of reaching out, but few knew how to do this.
Because of that, “social media experts” emerged and started making money from companies by advising them to pollute the digital universe with clutter and complexity.
Because of that, Jerry struggled with the idea that maybe companies should strive be clearer instead of relying on the same old spray and pray strategy?
Until finally, he decided to take a leap of faith together with a small group of clients, all tired of pushing one message after the other with no effect, and so the agency Spin Factory was born.
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, Doctor Spin:
My name is Jerry, I love public relations, but was fed up with “social media experts” giving clients bullshit advice on digital marketing. So I created Doctor Spin to share advice 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 more money than you need in the bank, what would your company do next?
Here’s how I imagine this scenario for Spin Factory:
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 behavioural research, human psychology, and online marketing.
I wouldn’t go out on a frantic hiring spree, but rather invest heavily in the people we already have onboard.
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 success, we would still work hard because we consider hard work to be a virtue and a way of life.
Now, the key question is, of course, what could you (or I) implement already today — even without winning an actual lottery?