Storytelling and the myth gap: the American dream

Building AmericaHere is where storytelling gets interesting. It’s not just about writing an engaging plot. The bigger picture is about using myths. Myths play a powerful role to explain what’s going on and help us connect with others in a shared story.

In our modern, rational society, we tend to think of myths as either a lie or as something that’s important only to primitive peoples. But myths are important to all societies. They help us create meaning and bring us together. They help us interpret and understand the world.

Jonah Sachs defines three ingredients of myths in “Winning the Story Wars.” [Read more…]

The simple story test: a dad, a daughter and a basketball hoop

Here’s a quick test from “Winning the Story Wars” to see if you are using the power of stories in your marketing and communications. And here’s an example of one of the top ads of 2014 that does a great job of storytelling.

As Jonah Sachs said, the more you can answer “yes” to these questions, the better your stories and communication will be. [Read more…]

Gimmickry: The fifth deadly sin of storytelling

“I love to laugh,” sang Uncle Albert in “Mary Poppins.” Laughing made Albert lose his connection with solid ground and float up to ceiling height. Albert’s laughter was infectious. Eventually Bert and the children couldn’t resist. They too floated up to join Albert in laughter. Only the stern Mary Poppins was left on the floor.

We all like to laugh. Humor is a universal emotion. When we laugh at the same joke, we create an instant connection.

But we need to use laughter carefully in telling stories, especially in marketing, said Jonah Sachs in “Winning the Story Wars.” An empty gimmick, just for the joke, isn’t effective. People may laugh, but the laughter is fleeting. Or the joke may bomb.

“There’s a far more inspiring kind of funny,” Sachs said. It “comes from hearing something we know to be true told in a way we’ve never thought of before.”

The question we need to ask when writing a funny story is, “Is it funny because it’s true?”

Vanity: The first deadly sin of storytelling

We can’t tell great stories if we fall prey to the five deadly sins, said Jonah Sachs in “Winning the Story Wars.” This is the first of five posts about these sins.

The story needs to be about your audience, not about you.

The story needs to be about your audience, not about you.

Sin #1: Vanity

You are not going to convert people to your brand or cause by telling them how great you are. Your own opinion isn’t enough to convince your audience or community.

You need to connect with their stories. People really want “to see their own reality and values reflected in a message,” Sachs said.

According to Sachs, one of the reasons that John Kerry lost and George W. Bush won the 2004 presidential election was the difference between their stories. Kerry’s story was about his issues and his credentials. Bush’s story connected with American voters.

Here are excerpts from the first few minutes of their acceptance speeches at the respective national conventions: [Read more…]

Rainbow Bend video premieres

“Restoring Rainbow Bend: Good for People and Fish” premiered last week at the annual Cedar River celebration. The video, produced by King County, features the story of the Millers, long-term residents who faced persistent flooding. The Rainbow Bend project moved people like the Millers out of harm’s way, returned the river to its flood plain and restored critical salmon habitat. The restoration site area is now used by hundreds of fish year-round. It is the largest project done to date on the Cedar River.

The video was produced by King County. My role was scriptwriting, interviews and direction.

Why your brain loves good storytelling

Here’s a link to an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review. It says that character-driven stories turn on oxytocin, a brain chemical that enhances empathy.

In order to activate oxytocin, the narrative must first sustain people’s attention by creating dramatic tension. In other words, the character must meet and overcome a difficult situation.

As the article says, this blows the typical PowerPoint presentation to bits. You can make your communications much more effective by adding human-scale stories to let people know why they should care.

You can read the full article here.

Those who tell stories rule the world

“Those who tell stories rule the world” is the title of a TEDx talk by Shane Snow, a technology journalist and self-described geek. On the TEDx stage, Snow said he hung the Native American proverb on his wall to remind him of the importance of stories.

I heard about Snow from Liz Satterthwaite, one of my co-presenters on storytelling at the recent ECO Net Summit. I had to check out Snow’s talk, given my fondness for both storytelling and TED.

One of the stories Snow told was about the French poet Jacques Prevert and a blind beggar. The beggar’s sign read: “Blind man without a pension.” He told Prevert that life wasn’t so good: not many people were giving him money. [Read more…]

Palliative care video wins Clarion Award

The video I produced for UW Medicine about palliative care has won a national Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications.

“Palliative care: helping patients improve quality of life” tells two stories: a terminally ill patient who got married at UW Medical Center (told by his widow) and a patient living with an artificial heart while she awaits a transplant. Two physicians describe UW Medicine’s approach to palliative care. Palliative care helps patients with serious illnesses and their families choose medical care that respects their needs, reduces pain and improves quality of life.

I produced the video as an independent study while I was enrolled in the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media program, now part of the Communication Leadership program. Thank you to Alex Stonehill at UW and Elizabeth Hunter at UW Medicine.

The power of emotion: Duracell honors the underdog

Derrick Coleman has been deaf since he was three years old. This year he went to the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks–and helped win the game.

Duracell’s inspiring 60-second video about the challenges Coleman faced, and overcame, has garnered more than 22 million views on YouTube. That’s one way to get people talking about your brand or issue.

Storytelling in PR

Here’s an interesting article from PR Insider about storytelling. According to the author Marilyn Fancher, “truly compelling stories always share two things: Emotional relevance and an understanding of the nature of conflict.”

Emotional Linking

An authentic story creates a personal connection to our own experiences and emotions. When we see ourselves in the story, it feels real.

APCO Insight has developed an Emotional Linking model to help understand what forms attachment to a brand. [Read more…]