You’re building your website for your business into a warm and welcoming online home, and you’ve heard that storytelling is the single most powerful way to reach your clients sincerely, and you know that you are a legit expert with an interesting and helpful story to share.
Now you just have to figure out how to tell your brand story.
No big deal.
Except…it kind of is. Your story has a big job to do, and it has the potential to be AMAZING, but it can be a really overwhelming task to put that story together on your own.
I’m writing a series right now about how to put your signature brand story together for your own website and as a foundation of your whole genuine marketing message.
You worked through some prompting questions last week, and that will help you to find the signature brand story elements you need for a great story, but you need to craft that story carefully in order to grab, keep and satisfy the interest of your readers.
That’s where it can get tricky.
- What order do you put details?
- Which details are important?
- How do I know that my real point is communicated?
- How do I keep it from being too long or not long enough…and how do I know when I get it right?
- I’M NOT A WRITER! THIS IS TOO COMPLICATED!
- Forget it! I’m going to put my sweatpants back on and eat eleven cupcakes.
But wait. There are actually some really easy frameworks you can use to build a great story.
And then you can trust that your brand story will be great.
It will grab, keep and satisfy your readers’ attention. Those three things need to happen for your story to be successful from the point of view of a reader.
It will also communicate the genuine message you want it to in a way that exemplifies your legitimacy as a brand, because those things make your story feel successful for you too.
Here we go, kittens!
Simple 3 Act Drama:
This one comes from Aristotle; he’s the man.
He said that great stories (or dramas) are built in 3 acts, and I gotta say that he’s not far off. It’s a really great and simple way to build a story that is about change, growth and overcoming obstacles.
Does that sound appropriate for the life of a small business owner to you? Yup. Thought so!
Act 1 is all about the growth of the main player that sets them up to deal with a pivotal conflict (that’s you, kitten). Attention should be paid to the aspects of that character’s personality that will be changed, strengthened or made clear during the major conflict to come.
Act 2 is all about that crossroads-type conflict or crisis that forced you to make a pivot toward or away from something significant. This is the hard part that led you toward that beautiful moment of “Holy Crap! I can do it!” we talked about last week.
Act 3 is the resolution where the main player (still you) makes sense of their life post-conflict. Their (your) personal growth is clear and the main point or the “moral of the story” is made apparent in this part of the story.
Simple right? Sometimes simple is all you need to run with it, but sometimes we need more direction than that.
The birth of the Amazing Shark-fin Storytelling Machine:
So back in the day when I taught writing at a local school for kids and adults with learning disabilities, I spent a LOT of time trying to help kids articulate their stories in a more…shall we say linear way than they were accustomed to.
Many of my students had dysgraphia, so physically getting words onto the page was a struggle for them. Lots of them also had to deal with symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, so their minds skittered around stories without any plan or reason, and it was really hard for them to focus their stories to make them effective.
These things all went together to make storytelling (and story-listening) verrrry difficult. We needed something visual to help organize the crazy-cool stories they all had bubbling in their imaginations, so that they could effectively communicate the great stuff they had to share.
We created the SHARKFIN.
It basically looks just like the old school Plot Outline arc that we all saw in Middle School English class, but because I called it a Shark-fin, I could play Jaws music and prance about the room, pretending to be a crazed story-shark in glasses and a dress.
These things help immensely when you must force kids to outline stories: ridiculousness and Jaws music.
I will refrain from the dancing and the music today, but you get the idea, right? Feel free to imagine it. I am exceedingly entertaining and agile…well, I am entertaining anyways.
Now, how does the Shark-fin work?
In short? Just like the good old fashioned plot diagram I mentioned before. Let’s review:
Almost all great stories follow this basic arc. The shape of the arc has to do with human psychology, the nature of growth and change and how we expect stories to play out. It’s finding the unexpected in an expected format that often makes individual stories shine as interesting and unique within such a familiar framework.
The Shark-fin storytelling method uses these stages of the story arc to develop and tell our own pieces in a logical order, with the purpose of each piece in mind.
Using the Shark-fin arc to outline your Brand Story is very simple
First, I’d suggest printing this worksheet (and then sharing, pinning and tweeting it all over the place, so your friends’ stories will be more fun to listen to).
Next, I want you to look at the 6 pieces you should include:
- Set it up. This is your Introduction, and you should use it to show your readers where your brand story began. Look at your notes from last week, and figure out when it truly all began.
- Build the person who will face the conflict. You learned and experienced things that made you ready for the crossroads-conflict, and helped determine the outcome. Tell us or hint at those details.
- Set out the major conflict and its stakes. Here comes the interesting part! How were you tested? What forced your hand and made you square your shoulders and turn toward doing what you do? Make sure that your readers understand the internal and external conflict you faced and what the stakes were. You are setting us up to be full of suspense right now, so we better be on the edge of our seats and reeeeeally care about the outcome.
- Climax. This is it: the moment of choice. This is the breath-holding moment just before we know that you will be ok. It’s quick, but it feels frozen. Think of the last scene of a cliffhanger season finale when you were left saying, “NOOOO! WHAT HAPPENS THOUGH?!?!” Do that 🙂
- Solve the Conflict. Just that. This is the Falling Action; it’s the part when – in a movie – you fall back into your seat and relax because your favourite character, it turns out, is not actually dead and everything is going to be ok.
- What’s the Point? This is when you tie all of your loose ends together into a nice, preplanned bow. It is satisfying for your reader and it really punches home what the point of your brand story is: the greater cause for your business and the reason you feel you must do what you do. It should relate to the person at the beginning of the story just enough to feel *right* but the change and growth you experienced through the conflict should be apparent.
Then, reread your homework questions from last week and think about how they are expressed in your brand story.
Your story should show your readers that you are passionate about what you do, that you have a bigger reason to continue doing it than a just pay cheque and that you have grown sincerely into the ideal person to offer that service or art to the world.
How’s that for a pretty little Shark-fin, kittens? Every time I work through this with a client of mine, I hear that it’s a really emotional experience – finding your story.
We have travelled through some interesting times to get where we are, kittens. Those travels have made us into the kinds of creators we are, so we really have to share them well and let our favourite clients know who we are and why we want to offer them a piece of ourselves.
Comment below with one of your own story pieces: what made you capable of facing your big conflict? What was your conflict about? What was that moment of choice before you decided to jump in? How did you make it work? Or what is the real point behind your journey – the thing that forces you to keep going, no matter what?
Get us interested, and then come back and post a link if you publish your story online. I want to hear all of the stories!
You mad? Excited? Have a perspective to share? Please do!
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