The art of seeing the story…

popup1Joe Dager of Business 901 and I begin by talking about the similarities between storytelling and art in this podcast.

I promise to send out a new Story Factor Podcast soon. I’ve been writing and editing the second edition of Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins and there is so much I want to add! [Read more…]

Just do it! Iteration or "playing it by ear" is a great way to learn storytelling and find great content fast

I recently posted that Coke shifted half their marketing content research budget from qualitative research to iterations.
One of my friends responded:  “So?”
Okay, fine. I went all geeky.  I will try to redeem myself with an example of how that works. [Read more…]

More Experiments!

I think we spend  too much time looking for the “right” story. We can’t know a story is effective until we try it out because stories are co-created. I have suggested we expect a 30% fail rate – a percentage I made up – so people won’t craft a story to death before they try it out.  I thought increasing tolerance for failure might lighten things up.


How can we know a story is effective until we try it out? Stories are co-created.


Now I see  at least one corporate giant has found there is no substitute for experiments. They have completely removed qualitative research in favor of telling new stories straight to consumers to see what flies.

Coke found, according to their Content Strategy Video (at 4:28), that recently their best stories were not pre-tested (ex: Old Spice Man). Coke  shifted 30% of their money away from conducting research on customers to support hanging out with customers for inspiration.


 Qualitative research can evaporate ideas!

Coke killed qualitative research on story ideas altogether because it “evaporates” ideas or solidifies them too soon.  They put their money behind generating lots of ideas and taking these story ideas straight to consumers to see what catches their imagination. Coke cut their budget for link testing (eye movement tracking, likert scale ranking, etc) in half from 60% to 30%. Twenty five percent of their money is now used for real time testing and adapting stories as they are co-created with real live Coke drinkers.

Stories arise from unpredictable experiences.


I may be jumping to conclusions but I think this validates the idea that we can’t research our way into great stories. Stories arise from unpredictable experiences in real time with live people and grow when given space and protected from reductive scientific research. It is about experience, not examination and feelings, not facts.


Speaking of experience, I have been interviewing people with practical storytelling experience to tell me: Who is using storytelling? to do what? and how do they measure success? You can hear edited podcasts (about 20 minutes) starting next week.  I’ll send you more info, then.

Two Line Stories – Examples

From Sheila on Easing a Story into your job interview #

Dear Annette,

Would love some examples of two line stories you have used in a business meeting.


Dear Sheila,

Business meetings are a great place for two sentence stories. I even have some one sentence stories!

“An Ethiopian taxi driver in NYC once shared his grandfather’s favorite saying with me: A man who beats his horse will soon be walking.”

When I see someone who uses punitive measures to control behavior, I sometimes find a way to tell this tiny story.  It requires a very light tone and I choose to present it as an indictment on my own behavior when I was younger.  I might even add: “By the time I was thirty I was surrounded by dead horses,” and follow with “You might be interested in something I learned in grad school”… or from my mentor….”

In a meeting with a pretty hip client (otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned sex) I told this quick story:

“When I worked at JWT – we used to say it’s “a great place to work if your parents could afford to send you there!” We did a weekend training at the beach full of sex, drugs and rock and roll but I still learned the most important concept I’ve ever learned about marketing – the Key Response.”

After that story I usually have permission to talk about using a Key Response to guide communication design.  I like to focus on what/how we want a listener to think/feel and after experiencing a communication rather than starting from the point: “What do we want to communicate?” The sex, drugs and rock and roll on the beach usually lowers inhibitions paving the way for better communication!

One more?

First, let me say that events and anecdotes about people close to the project usually provide your most powerful stories.

First, let me say that events and anecdotes about people close to the project usually provide your most powerful stories.  For instance, I volunteer to support local food and local community gardens.  I am also on my local Artists Directory.  Last Saturday I attended a planning day for artists who among many other things want to run a month-long focus on the culinary arts with a focus on local food. They mentioned community gardens. I wanted to build enthusiasm and share a contact name. I shared this short story:

“Grace XX our county ag person, already holds events when kids cook what they grow in the Allendale Community Garden. Last time I helped, all my kids competed for the privilege to grate carrots and apples until they realized it was work … and dangerous! Most of our knuckles survived.”

Everyone there knows where Allendale is.  I wanted to build a visual image for an already successful community garden with images of the garden, maybe a big kitchen area, lots of kids, smells of the apples cooking, etc.  My secondary purpose was to establish myself as a resource.  I can put them in touch with the person who will best coordinate events.  And finally I was acknowledging that there is hard labor involved.  Too many people already approach Grace with ideas but lack the discipline to help make things happen.

I could have said, “I know the people at Allendale, call me if you need a contact. But don’t call if you just want to swoosh in and swoosh out.”

But I don’t think it would have had the same effect.

So Sheila, does this help? Does anyone else have a two-line story?

Disclaimer: This isn’t like a haiku where you can only have only so many syllables and literally X number of lines. A “two-line” story is merely a concept so we remember just how tiny a story can be.