Communications Fundamentals: The Elements of a Great Story

I want to tell you a story. It’s a great story. I heard in the back of an Uber earlier this week. The stuff of classic silicon valley lore – a woman spends seven years writing down the tidbits of trivia she runs across in her everyday life into a small notebook she keeps with her, because trivia fascinates her as a hobby, and one day she realizes she has accidentally penned the next great trivia game. She finds partners who share her vision of reviving trivia as entertainment, they quit their jobs and devote a year to turning her notebook into a trivia game app. They launch and now hope to become the next big thing in mobile gaming. I hope they make it; I like trivia. I felt inspired by the story, and now I am rooting for them!

At SHIFT, we love a good story. In fact, all humans do. We are literally hardwired toward storytelling – a growing body of neuroscience research shows that stories stimulate more of our brains than just facts and figures do, and can even motivate us to change how we act in life. If you want to get someone to listen to you and perhaps even take action, tell them a powerful story. 

Looking to create a social campaign or orchestrate a big launch? What about secure a killer placement? Be a storyteller first. Here’s how:

  • Start with the story elements. Wikipedia defines a story as having the following three elements: a plot, the characters and a narrative point of view. As storytellers, we need to understand and articulate all three of these three elements to develop a powerful story. 
  • Don’t forget the “why?” Address why your audience should care to make the narrative more resonant for them. This is important news your readers will care about. This will save you time and money. This will make you feel something. This will be fun. This will be useful for you. 
  • Build credibility with facts and figures. Every good journalist is trained to know that the facts aren’t the story. But facts and data add much needed credibility and depth to any lead. Americans can’t wait for summer: 90% are looking forward to it. Our product makes complicated things easy to do: It has a feature that none of our competitors have. 
  • Show AND tell. Turns out the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true. Humans process the images 60% faster than we process words. In the era where social often leads for audience interaction with a brand story, paying close attention to images and aligning them to the brand story goes a long way.

So, what’s your next big story? 


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