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Crafting Your Story and Spreading Your Message (Part 1)

Andrew Stanton,  the writer-director of some of Pixar’s biggest hits, including Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, and my favorite, WALL-E, says in his TED Talk that, “storytelling is joke-telling. It’s knowing your punch line. Your ending. Knowing that everything you’re saying from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.”

We all love stories. We were born into a world where stories give our lives meaning.  If you’re anything like most of the people I know, you’ve got a story inside you that you’d like to bring to the world or at the very least you’re curious to know how a simple story can spread to millions of people online within days, create a movement that changes the world, or simple brings someone you know to tears of laughter or sadness.

Some people can do this easily and naturally, because they’ve mastered a formula for telling stories. Others are avid readers, active listeners and many of us are like sponges absorbing all things speaking, but maybe we still don’t feel confident in our own ability to tell an AWESOME story.

In fact, Peter Guber, the author of the bestselling book, “Tell To Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story,” says that, a lot of us out there haven’t used our storytelling skills since we were about 8, 9 or 10.

Let’s go back there for a few moments:

Remember, when you so vividly described your trip to the beach, the zoo, or better yet (and my favorite!)… just something that REALLY EXCITED YOU. When you were a kid people listened and you definitely got your message across…because your life
literally depended on it.

You know what?

Your storytelling skills aren’t lost!

All we need to do is just go back to THE BASICS.

Let’s first look at some examples of powerful storytelling, then characteristics of great storytelling, and finally, how you can begin crafting YOUR story.

Stories are powerful:

They’ve been used to create movements:

  • The KONY 2012 Movement is a perfect example! – The Invisible Children’s vision, mission, and STORY to ‘make Kony famous!’ tipped! The Telegraph reported (March 14) that the the short documentary (or presentation!) storming the Internet became the most successful video of all time at over 100 million views!
    • They created this movement through very impacting, hypnotizing, and effective story-telling.
  • Also, look at any type of major religious movement. Their books are packed full of stories, told time and time again!
    • Religious books, especially the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible and the Qur’an, are probably the most-printed books, and it’s impossible to know reliable figures of exactly how many are out there as they are produced by many different and unrelated publishers. Furthermore, many copies of these books are printed and given away free.
  • Further, look at Apple – it’s also through their story that they have created a MASSIVE technological movement – Apple provides one of Silicon Valley’s most famous stories! It is unique and its contribution to the personal computer are unmatched.

Sure, KONY 2012 is experiencing controversy… and so do religions and even Apple Inc, and this is another reason how and why stories are VERY powerful; they spark people to think for themselves and to question, and therefore, this sparks more people to tell the story from their point of view.

Characteristics of Great Stories:

  • They can spread quickly once hitting a tipping point. Jacob’s story and the KONY 2012 documentary spread like wild fire! Kony is now a house-hold name. They achieved their mission through storytelling.
  • They evolve and change. KONY 2012 came out first as a much shorter doc then they continued to evolve the story. The vision to ‘capture Kony’ and ‘make Kony famous’ hasn’t changed, although, the way Invisible Children tells the story has evolved and changed. For example, a video they put out in 2010 tells the story of how they want to rescue Kony’s children soldiers through raising money for various initiatives to help fund a feature film. (You can watch this crafted story, here). They have also told their story with Kony’s snake tongue! (You can watch that vid, here). Again, just great examples of different way people tell their stories and how stories can evolve and change.
  • They must be tested – just like any science experiment, or marketing effort. Powerful stories are re-told and re-told and re-told again to get to the point of being powerful. And when a story “fails” a test, it also wins because improvements are made time-over and time-over.
  • They are effectively shared online through many mediums… such as emails, blog posts, Facebook posts, Power Point/ Keynote Presentations, YouTube videos, online webinar presentations, podcasts… the list goes on and on! And it’s when these mediums work reguarly and consistently in orchestra that buzz builds.

Creating a Great Story:

  • Look at great Hollywood movies for great examples of stories (like Avatar).
  • Again, remember the KONY story (we can learn stuff here!). Well, it became a truly great story because it hits all 6 senses and has consistent patterns of language and used visual cues to make the story easily understandable by the people whom they want to communicate to.
  • Understand that a great story activates ALL 6 senses, but mostly we can only hit 3 of them.
  • Know that a powerful story must be told in an authentic, unique, and different way because we live in a world where everything has been done so to stand out, we must show that the way we are doing something is different and unique. Remember, there’s no one exactly like you (this is the authentic part). So be yourself.
  • It takes ongoing and regular commitment by the story-teller to come to and continue to deliver a great story. It can take many months or years to build a great story. Again, take the KONY 2012 movement, the founders of Invisible Children committed to releasing powerful content that shares the story of the children in Uganda since 2005! That’s close to a decade!
  • A great story usually stems from the storytellers’ effectiveness in telling the story in a profound and epic way, and usually tells stories of their life being dramatically changed or of the storytellers’ dramatically changing other’s lives.
  • A great story is refined by MANY different people with different views. So as a rule, we must get used to telling and therefore refining our stories at least a 1000 times! When a story is tested a 1000 times, we get to high probability -say 99.98%- of inevitability that people will LOVE the story.



Become the artist of your story.




Logical Steps:

1) Focus on the BIG Vision (have one specific purpose or goal written in one short phrase).

  • Facebook = To make the world more open and connected.
  • KONY2012 = To make Kony famous.

2) Share your story, which is in support of your vision, 1000 times.

3) Listen to and accept feedback.

4) Improve your story, and keep sharing!

In conclusion, remember that as with all great stories that create movements like the KONY2012 movement, there will be protagonists and antagonists, so simply do what you truly believe is best for you AND the world, and then communicate your story from THAT place. In addition, listen to people’s feedback and continue to share your story regularly through a variety of mediums, and test and improve your story and until you feel it making waves.

* Next blog post we will cover…3 Powerful Psychological Storytelling Techniques to Help You Influence Others.

As always, share this article with those in your community so we can support each other’s growth and ensure more people understand the power in THEIR story.


Amish Shah

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