We humans love a good story. Especially when it’s true.
Ever watch a movie based on a real-life events? Some of my all-time favorites have been inspired by true stories:
The Pursuit of Happyness. Titanic. Unstoppable. Big Miracle.
These were all compelling movies to be sure. (And they’d have been good stories even if they weren’t true.)
But the fact that I knew they were based on actual events had me hooked me right from the opening credits.
Your marketing stories can (and should) engage your prospective clients, too.
But first and foremost, your stories need to stand on their own.
They need to be interesting.
Let’s take a closer look at Big Miracle to see how you get there:
1. Conflict (or characters at odds with each other).
You had a mix of news reporters, government, big and small businesses, native populations and a nonprofit (Greenpeace). Most of these characters would normally be opposed to working with the others. But in this case, they eventually saw how their involvement would be a win-win.
2. A setting that engages the senses.
Nearly all of Big Miracle took place in the sub-zero cold of the North Pole. This cold did more than act as a setting. It was a character, too (a villain). It was the #1 reason the whales were trapped. But the story didn’t just tell us it was crazy cold. It showed us this problem by using scenes that demonstrated that fact. Eyelids frozen together. Feet gone numb. A pen stuck to a lip after just a few seconds. These vignettes gave us real examples of what it felt like to be there.[/box]
3. Three-dimensional characters.
Most of the characters in Big Miracle weren’t fully fleshed out. There wasn’t a lot of time for that. But the main characters did develop enough over the course of the movie to make the narrative interesting. The ambitious reporter who has a soft heart for the local teenage boy. The overzealous activist who makes a sort of peace with big oil. It’s important to remember that real people are flawed and full of contradictions. And they have lives beyond just the interactions you might have with them as a service provider or vendor.[/box]
4. The element of surprise.
Much of what keeps us on the edge of our seat isn’t about the ending — will the whales be freed? Of course they will. But that’s not really the point of the story — it’s just the vehicle for the rest of it. There are LOTS of stories out there where we already know the ending. What makes them worth reading/watching are the surprise twists and turns. In then end, this story leads to more than just freedom for whales. And it’s how we get there that makes it engaging.[/box]
5. A new reality.
(Spoilers ahead.) By the end of the story, the whales are freed from the ice and the characters all learn that collaborating helps everyone achieve their goals. If the whales had been freed, but the characters went back to their antagonistic ways, the story wouldn’t have been as powerful. A story is great when it shows positive growth or change in its characters beyond simply reaching a goal.[/box]
You may not have a blockbuster budget, but you can still use a variety of low-cost ways to tell your marketing stories.
Start with a good blog post, and when you’re ready, branch out to video or other media. Here’s a great example of how you might do this on a solopreneur’s budget…
Take a look at a Red Cross holiday marketing campaign:
This video works so well because it was shot by the “customers” of Red Cross — not by Red Cross, themselves. And while they did do the editing, hearing and seeing the stories directly from those that have been helped is what makes them so powerful. They feel all the more authentic without the Hollywood production. (Note: there’s a whole series of them, if you want to watch more.)
If you’d like help figuring out all of these elements, I invite you to join us for the first annual Story Bistro Marketing Mastermind & Storytelling Soiree. You can attend in-person or via simulcast. And I promise you’ll leave with a much better understanding of how to tell more compelling marketing stories.
Now it’s your turn: What great examples of storytelling have you noticed out there in the world lately? Share one with us and tell us which element(s) you think they’ve used to their advantage.