Strategic Story

The Power of Strategic Stories

I’m often asked, “Peter, what exactly is a Strategic Story?”

A Strategic Story is designed and crafted to engage and motivate the listener towards completing a specific action or objective.   A good example of this is the Gettysburg Address.  A speech delivered on November 19, 1863 to honor the dead at the battle of Gettysburg.

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Everyone has heard of the Gettysburg address and most know the first line by heart.  Abraham Lincoln was a great storyteller, and the Gettysburg address is a strategic story that has engaged and motivated listeners for decades towards a specific action and goal—the preservation of this nation.

It was the Constitution of the United States that was at the heart of the Civil War, which was being challenged by Southern States.   But, Lincoln doesn’t go back to the signing of the Constitution, on September 17, 1787, instead he returns to the signing of the Declaration of Independence—1776.  Why?

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Because one month before this speech Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which not only ended all slavery in the South, but echoed the Declaration of Independence’s first line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”  Lincoln paraphrased this with, “…our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Interesting enough, in all of Lincoln’s past speeches, he never mentions the word nation.  In fact, he concentrated on the word union over twenty times–never nation; However, by 1863, he begins to realize the union is not sustainable without a nation.  His second paragraph uses Nation in the strongest sense, Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

It was Edward Everett, who was the first speaker that day, he spoke 13,000 words for two-hours, yet no one remembered what he said.   Everett concentrated his speech on those soldiers who had given their lives both at Gettysburg and back during the Revolutionary War.  While Everett, focused on topping Shakespeare’s Marc Anthony speech for the dead, Lincoln chose to talk about those still alive and their future.

In Lincoln’s third and final paragraph he states clearly that there is still unfinished work to complete (an objective/goal) and we owe it to those who already, “Gave the last full measure of devotion…”  He then ends with a solemn oath, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Gettysburg address is a Strategic Story.  It begins like a story, “Four score and seven years ago,” same as, “A long time ago.”  It’s a persuasive argument told in a story format.  A Strategic Story is a skill that can be learned.  It’s also a powerful marketing tool that steps up visibility and increases leads.

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