At this year’s Social Media Marketing World event, the largest social media marketing conference in the world, Park Howell gave a workshop on the art of storytelling in the business world. As a business story strategist, agency owner, and professor at ASU, Howell was welcomed and well-liked by the SMMW crowd.
He walked onto the stage with a secret in his smile, a secret he would soon tell us. Howell believes in the truth of storytelling. He believe that storytelling is the one truth superpower we all possess, and it is our jobs to reignite and hone in on using that power. The art of the narrative is more important now than ever before, precisely because there is so much content. People everywhere have their own channels, stations, etc., and want to share it. Park’s point is, “don’t tell me, show me” and this is what the people want.
Howell mentions American writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell for his writings of the hero in his book, The Hero’s Journey. Campbell’s book traces cycle of heroes and they move from the ordinary world to the fantastical. The cycle is as follows:
1. Status Quo
2. A Call to Adventure
4. Departure (into special world)
11. New life
13. An Upgraded Status quo
Although this was not intended for business storytelling, Howell advises to try to follow a similar cycle in business writing.
Stories and storytelling are a natural human phenomenon. They of course need a beginning, middle, and end, but Park warns that we often miss this in business because we worry about the conflict that is involved in the middle. He explain this with an example using coffee beans. In a story of coffee beans, the beans are the beginning. In the middle, we pulverize it then we pour scolding water over it. Finally, in the end we have a beautiful cappuccino. Notice that in this story (and every story), the middle is the biggest part.
Now knowing this, Park adds “that best stories are inspired by actual events—whether they happened or not”.
So to those writing a book for their business, consider these chapters.
Act 1: The Beginning
– Where have you been?
– Who is your hero?
– What’s at stake?
– The call to adventure
Act 2: The Middle
– The Conflict is the body of all stories
– Villains (negative people/new competition
– Fog (not knowing what you’re doing)
– Crevasses (things that happen—the bigger/badder, the better)
– The Mentor enter
– The road of trials
– Victory is at hand
Act 3: The End
– The Moral of the story
– Or ‘To be continued’ (A great way to get users involved)
Throughout Park’s session, he visited the idea that there is actual science behind why storytelling is so valuable to people. On one hand, telling a story allows you to encapsulate everything about an event in a easy to follow form. On the other side, the way that a story is normally told allows for your listeners to become more involved and give most if not all of their attention to the story, as this is something that the brain wants to do.
Overall, a great session that got into a bit more detail about storytelling, which was a key learning across the whole conference.