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The Best Story Wins, Part 2 of 2

Bess Gallanis looks at SOCO, that stands for single, overriding communications objective to make your stories stand apart.


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Last night I watched “The Social Network” and this morning I rewrote this post. What does “The Social Network”, a fictionalized movie about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, have in common with business storytelling?

The movie’s creators did not intend “The Social Network” as a literal biography of Mark Zuckerberg, the real person. The movie is a mythological creation story, retold for our times. Myths are shared cultural stories, generally regarded as the truth about a remote past. Facebook was The Big Bang of social networking, giving birth to an entirely new digital world and with it, a new kind of social contract.

The world of Facebook may have been new, but since the beginning of time, innovation and success have bred envy and jealousy. His Facebook co-founder and two Harvard classmates sued Zuckerberg, both the real and the fictional man, simultaneously. The movie’s lead character, the fictional Mark Zuckerberg, is an archetype. As his lawyer in the movie tells a naïve and bewildered Zuckerberg: 

Every creation myth needs a bad guy.

“The Social Network” brings into sharp relief the type of market forces that are driving innovations in business communication—in both form and function.

A new generation of executives sees that to connect and engage with stakeholders, they need a compelling narrative that can be heard and understood by a diverse, global audience. They also need the skills to communicate across multiple media channels—text, audio, video and images.

The form for this new challenge is storytelling. Effective leaders know that the best stories win—people’s hearts, minds and commitment.

To take an idea from concept to story, follow a logical and methodical process: 

1. Start with SOCO

To make an impact, make a point: a single, overriding communications objective. Build your story, develop your story and resolve your story around a SOCO.

2. Build on a classic foundation

This classical story structure, whatever its form, must appeal to three human senses:

  1. Logos/logic: Your story must be logical and demonstrate common sense
  2. Ethos/credibility: The storyteller must be trustworthy the story credible
  3. Pathos/emotional: The story must touch people’s emotions

3. Follow the Rule of Three

Why is the three pairing so pervasive in communication? Pattern recognition. Design the progression of your story using the rule of three:

  1. Your story needs a beginning, middle and end
  2. Your story should create tension, build tension, and finally resolve tension
  3. To increase audience retention, recognize, layer and repeat. In other words:
  4. a. Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  5. b. Tell the story and
  6. c. Repeat the key points that support your SOCO

4. Model your story on a classical myth or archetypal character

Certain types of stories have endured to tell universal truths, to explain how the world works and to reveal us to ourselves. Cultures may differ in their specific mythologies but the underlying truths are the same.

In his 2009 TED talk, The Myths That Mystify, Devdutt Pattanaik engages the audience with stories that illustrate how mythology shapes a cultural identity, and how this insight can lead to greater understanding and better communication in the workplace.

Mythological stories and archetypal characters surround us in film, books, television, music, theatre, dance, and art. Three well-known archetypes lend themselves to business stories:

5. Use PowerPoint to enhance storytelling

PowerPoint is a great tool to organize and present data, but this format doesn’t do much to help the audience process that information. Generally, the point of storytelling is used to help the audience process information, come to a conclusion or to make a decision. Richard E. Mayer, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, conducts research around educational psychology.

To design a powerful PowerPoint presentation, follow these principles that emerged from Professor Mayer’s research about how people learn:

  • Multimedia principle, in which people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone
  • Coherence principle, in which people learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included
  • Contiguity principle, in which people learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented at the same time or next to each other on the screen
  • Modality principle, in which people learn better from animation with spoken text than animation with printed text
  • Signaling principle, in which people learn better when the material is organized with clear outlines
  • Using a conversational style rather than formal style

See Also:

Bess Gallanis on Indezine (Glossary Page)

The Best Story Wins, Part 1 of 2

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