I recently read an interesting article on storytelling by Jonathan Gottschall. I’ve been for a long time - like Gottschall, apparently - quite fascinated by the power a well-crafted and well-told story can have, in almost any sort of circumstances. In my line of work - creating, developing and producing everything from TV shows to corporate storytelling ventures to story-driven apps - storytelling is an essential part. I’ve observed the same things that Gotschall mentions in his article; the flocking of companies to stories as a means to get their message delivered to the intended target groups with the intended effect.
What I’ve also noticed, though, is a sometimes very apparent lack of knowledge and understanding about how a story actually works. As I see it there are three important steps to delivering a story experience and being able to expect a positive end result.
First, we need to know what we want to achieve. As with many buzzwords and popular terms, there are people who simply want a story created around their product or service or brand or key characters because that’s what everyone else is doing. Or, alternatively, they have a clear notion of why this is important, but the end goal is still blurry, simply because they haven’t thought through the full journey of the story and of the people taking part of the story.
Have a very clear goal in mind - where do you want the people who take part of your story to end up?
Second, we need to know what to do when we’ve reached our goal. The people who have ended up where you wanted them to end up, having taken part of your story, what do you want them to do then? How do you follow up in a natural and logical way, and what will you be aiming for then? And how do you integrate a reward system into all of this, making the people who engage feel appreciated and valued?
Plan for all the steps ahead, and don’t underestimate an engaged audience - do it right, and they will be more eager than you could ever hope - or wish - for.
Third, we need to be clear on how we achieve the goals we set up. Whatever story we decide on telling, with whatever goal set up and whatever desired interactions by the people taking part of it, we need to make sure we’re authentic, honest and true to the core of what we’re offering people. If we con them, if we’re less than honest, if we’re in contradiction with other parts of our being or our narrative, there will be no long tail, no matter how much people engage with us and our stories initially.