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?

Three simple scripts that you can use to tell stories with bigger impacts.

Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash.

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Ludvig SunströmMaria GustafssonJerry SilfwerSean GlazeWilliam Cosgrove Recent comment authors

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[…] written about storytelling elements1 before, but how about the over-arching structure of a good story? Well, it turns out that there are […]

Ludvig Sunström
Guest

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

Thank you!

Maria Gustafsson
Guest
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

Sean Glaze
Guest

Jerry-

Thanks so much for 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!

William Cosgrove
Guest

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 …

Elia Mörling
Guest

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.

Niklas Myhr
Guest

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).

Anders Hedberg
Guest

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.

Erik Starck
Guest

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).

Fredrik Torstensson
Guest

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.