Storyteller Secrets

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When Branding, it is important that you deliver one simple message.  That message must be clear and carry emotion.  As any stand-up comedian will testify to, humor is a hard topic to develop.  As a comic, you are constantly trying to figure out what will make the audience laugh.  Audience mood, subject matter, timing, and occasion are all elements in preparing humor.

On the other hand, you would think human emotion would be more straight forward.  However, humor also has, like in law, a statute of limitations.  A good example is William Shakespeare’s, “Merchant of Venice.”  In the court scene, Shylock, a Jew, will lose his fortune and must convert to Christianity.  Today, when this scene is played out, there is sadness; however, 500 years ago, the audience was belly laughing at this scene.

There are still some forms of humor that maintain, like slapstick, a more physical humor that has been played out for centuries.  Humor based on a play of words can be dated as the meaning of the words or expression change in time.  Whereas, a single tear, still has the emotional response expected.

Generational family topics can be moving like the following video.  No words needed to be spoken and you understand what the company is branding.

This is another military topic where generations having shared similar ordeals and threats meet in an unlikely location.  This video also shows that sex and race are not a criteria for anyone who has served in the armed services.

Did you note that both videos use a single piano to set the emotional tone?   Music can set the tone and mood for the response expected.  Music is a powerful emotional element to add to any video.  Music must be chosen on how you want the audience to react and experience, not what you like.

 

In the Food City video, when the young man starts to walk up to the house his face is bright and happy as he looks around, then he sees the older soldier dressed up in his full-dress uniform.  The young man’s face slowly changes to a more respectful serious look, dropping his bag, as he moves slowly towards the older solder.  The witness to all of this is one woman who turns to see the two solders meet.  The embrace of the soldiers is the signal for all to encircle the two soldiers and it ends.

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In the American Airlines, a young black female dressed in camouflage fatigues is asked to board first.  The room is crowded, but there are older men who take special attention to this young soldier as she walks forward.  She walks between a row of people but spots one older man who has stood at attention  presenting her a salute.  She humbly acknowledges it with a shy smile and a nod.  The narrator’s words are unnecessary,  the message is clear.

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The piano is a string instrument.  How would an acoustic guitar change the mood in these videos?

Storyteller Secrets, Strategic Story

Strategic Storytelling-Branding 1

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Strategic Stories can be transmitted through a variety of presentation formats.  Today, we will look at Story Branding.  You find this format mostly on Websites to Social Media.  Digital Storytelling should be kept at the 1 – 3-minute mark, beyond three minutes takes more creativity to keep the viewer to the end.

The two stories that follow is a second level of Strategic Storytelling we call, “ Storytelling Branding.”

Patek Philippe’s one minute commercial creates both the brand and image by using visual metaphors.  The black and white photography creates an air of sophistication and drama.  The video highlights five major cities that represent the five major UTC Time Zones.   Each time zone is equal to 10-seconds of video time.  In each of the five segments an adult is wearing a Patek Philippe watch, and the adult is always paired with a son or daughter image.   The last ten seconds explains the whole message: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.”  This is more than just a watch to tell time, it is an investment in technology and fine art.  The music is soft, classical, and subtle.   It ends with, “Begin your own tradition.”  The Brand is set like a museum piece of fine art and the whole video plays into this concept.

 

 

The second commercial says absolutely nothing about the product, “Red Bull Stratos.”  The video was edited down to 1:30 minutes.   It is the historical documented highest free-fall jump ever done—24 miles in altitude.  The video went viral and has been seen more than 41,500,000 million times. The only brand icon visible was on top of the parachute.  Brilliant!  Red Bull, in the past has spent over $75 million per year advertising and marketing its product in the U.S.  However, the viral video, “Red Bull Stratos,” rose sales 17% to $1.6 billion dollars in the United States. Globally the company sold 5.2 billion cans, which was a 13% increase.  Red Bull’s slogan: ‘Red Bull gives you wings’.

 

Storytelling Branding has a beginning, middle, and end.  It differs from Strategic Storytelling, which is more of a persuasive argument.  The purpose of branding is to identify your product-service customer’s values.  If done correctly, the story will do most of the work.  Story Branding must build trust, confidence, and inspire emotion.  Without the emotional element, the story will end when the video ends.  Shut the sound off and see the video again, and then think about what Alfred Hitchcock once told his apprentice.  He said, “Even if they shut off the sound to my movies, the images will still deliver the message and emotions.”  This is good advice when developing your video storyboard.

Images must convey meaning through their actions and expected emotional response.  Background music should never over power, but act more as a supporting actor.  The story must lead the viewer to a conclusion on your Brand’s strength: Trust, Confidence, Reliability, or Leadership.  Which of these two videos would you use as your branding template?

 

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The Nested-Loop

In my junior high years, I loved collecting, trading and reading comics.  As kids, we brought our comics to school where all kinds of deals were made for the right story.  But, it was in my last year of junior high when my cousin Joel visited me with a special gift—a book.  He told me that as much as comics were fun to read he thought it was time for me to expand my vocabulary and world while reading science fiction.

s-l640My first book from him, “I, Robot,” a 1950 first edition.  This series was made up of nine stories which I savored every evening.  So popular was Isaac Asimov’s robot stories I continued reading them to Asimov’s passing.  I still have that original “I, Robot” book in my collection.

In more modern times, I have enjoyed stories from James Clavell, Michael Crichton, and Dan Brown.  These authors have a genius for weaving a network of stories into one complete story.  Nested-loop stories are the second classical genres I will be sharing with you today.

I saw Julie Heffernan’s artwork called, “The Scout III” (above) and asked permission to include it in this blog.  She asked me what I saw?  I told her, it reminded me of a storyteller who is creating a nested loop of stories within stories.  She agreed and granted me permission to display her artwork—which I’m most grateful for.

Speakers who perform nested-loop stories, like Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, have the ability to explain a process while inspiring an audience.  The use of analogies and metaphors are also key in stimulating visual imagery for better understanding and comprehension.  In the end, the authors impart not only knowledge but wisdom, which the listener can pass on to others.  Check out James Burke’s, The Day the Universe Changed, and Connections.”

The nested-loop works like this.  You place your most important story (thought, concept, or idea) in the center and use stories at the beginning to draw your listener in.  The last story finishes the first story and ties in the center story into one neat package.

maxresdefaultWe find a good analogy of a nested-loop in the story of the “Godfather II.”  The story opens with young Vito Corieone witnessing the murder of his father, mother, and brother.  The center of the story covers the boy’s growth into manhood, where he becomes prosperous as both a businessman and a godfather. It ends with the beginning of the story as Vito returns to Sicily to take revenge on his family’s murderer.

stan-lee5Now it’s time for me to end this article, but I need to end it like a nested-loop, somehow bringing the beginning topic of comics through the middle and tying it at the end.  How?  How about—Stan Lee!

Stan Lee is known as the godfather of comics.   Stan Lee’s stories have moved from comics to television, to the silver screen; from movies to the game industry, now to online. Now that’s a real 3D nested-loop!

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Hero’s Journey

Human stories began about 200,000 years ago, before the technology of writing was invented, stories were told and passed down orally.  The oldest recorded written story came out of Mesopotamia.   It was the Epic of Gilgamesh.  The classification of this story is called, “The Hero’s Journey.”

Epic-of-Gilgamesh

 

There are eight classical story themes and the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ is one of the most popular and oldest of all.  The oldest story, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” was written a little over 4,000 years ago on cuneiform tablets and was taken from oral stories that had been passed down for generations.  Gilgamesh has all the hero action and suspense as in our modern-day stories.

Modern-day stories of a similar hero can be found in: George Baily from ‘It’s a wonderful life’ to Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games.’  The hero can be male or female, young or old, rich or poor.  Our character seeks adventures only to find the real story is about discovering his weaknesses and his inner strength.

In the end, we admire the hero for overcoming the obstacles and challenges because our character generally overcome successfully their own physical limitation or disadvantages.  Ben Okri said, “The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection.  Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.”  Harry Potter may be a wizard, but he was still a young boy.  The story is set in a David and Goliath format where a child character is challenged to face adult wizards and mystical creatures.

Every hero finds a mentor-friend along his path’s journey.  Gilgamesh, 6000 years ago, walked with Enkidu, Luke Skywalker finds Obiwan Kenobi, and even Marty McFly has Doc.  In all cases, they somehow lose their mentor along the way.  At the most crucial point our character must face alone his fears and doubts when the challenge, generally a life-death situation, comes upon him.

These types of stories demonstrate the benefits of taking the risks.  Risks can range from losing a kingdom to losing one’s life.  Behind these types of stories there are important characteristics in what makes human successes and human failures.  If the story is well presented, the listener becomes involved emotionally and psychologically drawing from experiences their own defeat and failures.

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Yes, stories allow the listener to travel with the hero, continuing to urge him on or to suffer with him.  The Hero’s Journey is about sharing emotions too!   Our hero may lose a battle but learns how to turn his weakness into the weapon he needs, like in, “The Last Samurai,” where the hero, Capt. Nathan Algren learns a new philosophy—Bushido, the way of the warrior.  This moves this character from a defeated drunk to a national hero.

Finally, the Hero’s Journey demonstrates that anyone can achieve newfound wisdom if they are willing to keep an open mind.  In the end, the Hero’s Journey is about a visual journey of emotions leading the listener to accept his weaknesses while discovering his inner strength.

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Experiences Are Best Shared

This reminds me of a story when I was branch manager of a Southern California S&L back in the 1980’s.  My supervisor was Samantha (Sammy) Galluzzo.  Our branch was open every Saturday but Sammy was never available because she went to the City of Hope each weekend.  When I first found out where she was going I wasn’t sure if she was going in for treatment or testing.

One day, she shared with me the reason for her weekly attendance.  She told me that she had had cancer.  She recalled in some detail her weekly trips for chemotherapy.  She said, “The minute I got out of the car and saw the hospital building, where my therapy would take place, I would immediately get sick.”

She continued, “There was a young girl who brought me and the other patients blankets, magazines, and even games to occupy our minds.  She would be so encouraging always saying, “This will soon be over and you will be well and never have to return—I know you will do fine.””

Sammy decided to ask her what cancer she had beaten and her reply was not comforting, “Oh, I’ve never had cancer, I’m just a volunteer.”

Sammy said she felt abandoned at that point.  All the good wishes and encouragement that this young girl had given was useless since she never had the experience.  She told me that she made a prayer that if God spared her she would return.  She would be able to tell others she knew what they were going through because she had also gone through the same treatment.  She would become the light at the end of long dark tunnel.

Well, Sammy was cured and she kept her promise.  Now when she got out of her car she could stare at the building that once made her sick and no longer feel the sickness but the strength to challenge others as a form of encouragement.  Hidden in her thoughts were the hopes that she might live long enough to see that building torn down.

Sammy used Strategic Stories from her own life experiences to give hope and encouragement to other cancer patients.  She volunteered, brought in the blankets, magazines and games, but she also brought in something more powerful—her testimony and strength.

I recalled this story because Strategic Stories are more powerful when they come from your own stories, and if you are telling another person’s story then you must be able to identify with the emotions to deliver the message.

Whenever you think, “I’ve been there,” you are hovering over a story that holds not only your experience but your emotions as well.  Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, “There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.”  Knowing which class of people, you are addressing, while understanding the real obstacle restricting movement forward are all part of Strategic Storytelling.

See you next week with more Strategic Story tips.

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What Is Your Lynchpin?

There are seven types of openings a speaker can start with but given that I keep my blog to 500 words I will not detail them but cover the only one that pertains to Strategic Storytelling:  Stories\Persuasive.

A Strategic Story is a short persuasive argument whose purpose is explain a stand, clarify a point, or alter an opinion.  The story gets its appeal from the action which occurs, the struggle of protagonists leading to some climax, and the natural tendencies of listeners to sympathize or identify with the characters.

Great movies do this by placing you in a darkened room, accenting the story with background music, colors chosen, scene staging, close-ups of facial expressions, and other effects.  If done correctly you are entirely unaware of the bad popcorn taste and maybe that you ate without remembering any of the bites you took.

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Unfortunately, you can’t drag your client into a darken room and play background music as you tell your story.  You hold the listener’s attention through your voice, eye contact, and gestures.  You must draw your listener into the story with imagery and emotions he can identify and feel.  There are techniques and skills that you can learn and use, which I teach in workshops; however, there is not enough space to teach it all here.

I have a young friend, we’ll come him Erick, who wanted to start up his own business.  His number one problem was where do I start?  He was 22, had a Masters, no experience, but some great insights.    That fear of not knowing and fearing any direction might lead to disaster caused him to procrastinated until he ‘knew’ for sure how and when to start his business.

I told him there was a story about a king named Gordius who created a massive knot.  It was said, that if any man could untie it he would rule Asia.  Hundreds of men tried, failed, and walked away; however, when young Alexander the Great examined the knot he made several attempts and failed.  He didn’t know where the knot started or ended, the knot was most intimidating– then he said, “It makes no difference how they are loosed.”  At this point, he reached down in the center of the knot, pulled out the lynchpin that ran through the yoke that loosened the knot so that it could be untied.  While everyone else concentrated on how the knot was tied, Alexander focused on what was keeping it together.  In the end, what seemed so difficult was easy because the lynchpin was the key to the knots existence.  Alexander went forth to conquer Asia.

I then asked him what is the lynchpin in your problem?  Once he did he started his successful SEO Internet business and is successful today.

Strategic Stories must lead the listener through a short journey.  The end must always be a surprise or unexpected.  Timing on the end is key.  Because it is what lights up the ‘Ah-haa’ moment.  What is your lynchpin?

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Answer The Why!

Continued from Tuesday’s blog.

There is at least a good dozen books on the shelves today explaining how to tell your story for your business.  They center from writing a story to branding an image.  However, what is common in all of them is the story format they present.  Generally, a five-segmented format that consists of: Problem, Reaction, Action, Trouble, and Resolution.  William Shakespeare generally wrote 5 acts that mimicked these five-segmented concepts.  But his plays were 2-3 hours long and Strategic Stories are designed and crafted for minutes not hours.

While I really enjoyed Esther K. Choy’s book, “Let the Story Do the Work,” I felt the one element that was missing was the ‘Why.’  Choy did a great job in telling how to craft a story with some great examples; however, the one thing that was understated was the why stories should be told.  In Strategic Storytelling, the WHY is the most important element because it explains, teaches, or directs the listener to an understanding of his problem and the direction he needs to take to solve it.

It was said when you were in the presence of Abraham Lincoln you felt his full attention.  What he was doing was listening very carefully.  After someone spoke he generally paused before he spoke.  Too many people today are already at the gate ready to latch out as soon as the other person takes a breath.  That’s because they already have the answer and were just waiting for an opportunity to deliver it.  Listening is an important skill especially in Strategic Storytelling.

Listening is not a one-way street.  A good listener not only listens to the words but observes the body language (facial expressions, hand gestures, body posture) another topic I will cover in future topics.  Lincoln would only interrupt to clarify a point. When the person completed his request, demand, or anguish then he would speak.  If he decided to use a story for an answer he generally began, “That reminds me of a story I heard . . .”

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Lincoln used metaphors both in his negotiations and persuasive arguments.  I strongly suggest you read his Gettysburg Address.  A two-minute strategic speech that has been admired for the past 155 years.  Compare that to Edward Everett who spoke before Lincoln on that same day.  Everett’s speech lasted two hours.  Lincoln used a Chronological approach to his Gettysburg address.  I will cover seven introduction genre’s tomorrow.  As a master Strategic Storyteller he was, Lincoln ended his presentation with the most powerful punchline in history.  The punchline, not humorous, but so explosive it has been heard down the ages for the past 155 years, “. . .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.”

Lincoln focused on the living honoring the dead and why their deaths were important. Everett focused on the battle’s place in history.  See you tomorrow.