Josh Pitzalis

Businesses can tell decent stories too

A story starts when a hero finds themself in a broken world.

All the tension in a narrative is down to how they handle their problem. Their struggle can be internal, or in the physical world, but often plays out in both.

A story is resolved when the hero fixed the problem, emerging transformed from the experience.

All stories are stories of transformation.

We like to make sense of things. The world is often a chaotic and confusing place. This simple three-act structure is the simplest way to restore a sense of order in our world.

Businesses can piggyback on people's bias for stories by using this simple three-act structure in their communication.

Here's how to tell a story as a business in 5 steps:

  1. Your story must have a clear guiding idea - If you're telling your brand story then you have to be clear about what your company helps people do. If you're just telling an anecdote to make a point the guiding idea behind your story must be crisp. All business stories have a moral or key insight they communicate. You need to be clear about what you are trying to communicate. We're dealing with short-form storytelling here so your story can only be about one thing.
  2. Assemble your cast - Once you know what your story is about you must create the characters. There are three essential characters in a story: the hero, the shadow, and the guide. The hero is the central figure in your narrative. The hero’s job is to drive the story through some form of transformation. In order to grow the hero must overcome an adversary, a force that gets in the way of the hero fulfilling their quest. A guide is somebody or something that helps the hero conquer their shadow and become heroic. Your customer is the hero, your business is the guide, and the shadow is whatever problem your business helps them solve.
  3. Start with act three - Begin with the end in mind. What will the world look like when everything is fixed and ordered and perfect? Define what your hero cares about and describe the version of success that resonates with them and the groups they belong to.
  4. Then go back to act one - Now that you have a perfect world, what is the exact opposite? this is where your story starts.
  5. And now for act two - Now all that's left to do is explain how your business helps your hero fix their broken world.

Easier said than done.


I must clarify that all of this came from Will Storr’s excellent 2-week storytelling course. Everything I know pretty much comes from that one course at the moment. It's all still new to me.

The example he used for this done well is CrowdStrike's cyber security story. It's interesting to see how they've followed the three-act structure so meticulously.

This example is about using story in the context of a brand story. that's not the only place this has to play out. Yesterday's post on how to use stories in a business looked at all of the different kinds of stories you can tell as a business.


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