Once Upon a Time – The Art of Storytelling

Published on June 3, 2020

Communicating is one thing but actually landing the customer centric message is another, even after we get back to our new normal.

I can’t imagine that many people would disagree that effective and impactful communications is critical in our world today. In a remote world full of competiting interests and priorities, our abilitity to effectively land our messages faces some challenges and presents opportunities.

As good as platforms like Zoom. Webex etc. are, they are obviously less personal environments for communication. Also, calls through these platforms are shorter in time and our audience probably has many things on their mind

Getting our message across effectively demonstrates customer centric beliefs and behaviours and is an opportunity to differentiate. Adapting to become more effective in communication is a great example of agility and resilience

In his book To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink studies a series of pitches, including a now famous “The Pixar Pitch”, developed by Emma Coats, a former story artist at the Pixar studio.

Coats has argued that every Pixar movie has a “deep structure of storytelling that involves six sequential sentences”

“Once upon a time ……………………………………………………………………………..
Every day …………………………………….. One Day …………………………………
Because of that……………………………………..Because of that ………………….
Until finally…………………………………………………………………………………………”

To illustrate, Pink summarises the plot of 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 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, Marlin and Nemo find eachother, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.”

Genious!! – a great, simple, emotional and global story of the journey of father and son learning to find eachother.

So, how good would it be if our clients and prospects could learn about their needs and how they can improve and grow through such wonderful story telling?

To answer that question, have a look at Pixar’s “The 22 Rules of Storytelling”, where you will find a treasure trove of learnings, rigour and insights, many of which have application in a conversation with a client or prospect.

Here are some examples:
Rule #2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be V. different.

This is the film and television version of being customer focused.

Rule #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine Characters. Hop Over Detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free

Once upon a time in the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs and the team refined nine pages of content down to two words “Think different”

Rule #11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

Getting down on paper also enables the team to brainstorm the very best story to tell.

Rule #22: What’s the essence of your story? The most economical way of telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Clients and prospects are very busy people. They expect us to have done the research, engage on their needs and provide perspectives in a customer centric and compelling way.

To get another perspective, Andrew Stanton, Pixar writer, explained the rules for great story telling in his Ted Talk.

Phil Hunt MBA
References:
• To Sell is Human, Daniel R Pink, Ther Text Publishing Company, Melbourne
• “Pixar Story Rules (One Version”, Pixar Touch Blog, 15 May 2011
• Dale Carnegie Story Telling workshop, Rob Goodburn, 1 June, 2020