Undoubtedly you’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Yeah, I get that, but do you know what writers call pictures that have no words? Art.
Think of some of the great photographs you’ve seen, maybe in National Geographic or Outside magazine. You may connect emotionally with the beauty of a compelling image, but it is most often the words that put the picture into context, providing meaning that supports your emotional response. Words tell you details like who is in the photo, what they are doing, where it was taken, and other interesting tidbits.
Storytelling: What makes for a good story?
Now, put together a thousand words and you’ve created a picture, or at least that’s what a good story does. Images begin to form in your mind’s eye when you read an interesting story. Think about it, all movies begin as books or as screen plays – words on a page – that someone “sees” and transforms into moving pictures.
So what makes for a good story? The answer may surprise you because if you think about it, nearly every story ever told come down to three basic elements: Heroes, villains, and sunsets. Let’s look at each a little closer.
Heroes: Heroes are the central character and he or she either represents us, “Everyman,” or a vision of who we wish we could be. Heroes are Jason Bourne, Superman, James Bond, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Hemingway’s Old Man (of Old Man and the Sea). The hero is the character we expect to sweep in and save the princess just in time.
Villains: Villains wear the black hats. These are the characters who are out to get our heroes; the ones trying to harm the princess. He or she is the impediment trying to steal the joy from our hero – from us. We’re talking Darth Vader, Agent Smith in the Matrix, Commodus in the Gladiator.
Sunsets: If you’ve ever seen an old western, the hero overcomes the villain, rescues the “Princesses “and rides off into the sunset. Sunsets are the, “And they lived happily ever after” moments. We want sunsets in our stories and in our lives.
Storytelling: What makes for good brand journalism?
If you look more closely at the elements of a good story, here’s what you see: A hero who faces a challenge yet overcomes an obstacle to arrive at a favorable outcome. So let’s transpose those elements of storytelling into the key of brand journalism, because you need the story to actually do something for your brand.
Heroes: Guess what? This gets to be you or your organization. You offer a product or service that is the solution to the challenges others face. You ride in on the white horse and slay the villain that keeps others from reaching their goals.
Villains: These are the challenges and obstacles others face for which you provide a solution. If everyone could overcome their own challenges then they wouldn’t need you or anyone else, would they? However, since most organizations and businesses need some kind outside product, expertise, or solution to advance their mission, why not you?
Sunsets: A happy ending to the story is when you accomplish what you say you will through your products, expertise, and solutions. You make other people glad they did business with you or your organization. Brand journalism comes in and tells that story in a compelling way so others can experience how you faced the challenge and “saved the day.” You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get grateful customers to share how you “rescued” them.
Let us pause to make a point about brand journalism and stories. Don’t buy the myth that you have to have a blockbuster to have a story. Not so. The power of brand journalism is found in the consistency of quality storytelling. In other words, brand journalism becomes an effective strategy when you commit to a sustained effort to share your organization’s day-in, day-out ability to be a solution provider for others. Influence grows as the number of stories grow. Prospective clients see a body of work that convinces them you are the hero for whom they are looking.
Concentrate on being the hero and you’ll get the stories…and the clients!
What story is your organization telling with its brand journalism?