One of the best workshops I attended at the recent Traffic & Conversion Summit was put on by Perry Belcher – a true marketing guru, not a “poser” – on the power of using stories. I won’t go into all the details about WHY you should tell stories in promoting your campaign and/or organization, but here’s they key point…
“A bad story will beat a great sales letter.”
Why? Because you can’t argue with a story. You can choose to believe it…or not believe it. But you can’t argue with it. It’s a story.
Trump is great at story-telling. So was Reagan. That’s why both enjoyed so much success in their campaigns for president.
Now, here are the three most important elements to successfully using stories in your communications…
1.) Make It Interesting
As Perry said, “Nothing is interesting other than trouble.”
It’s similar to what I teach about dealing with the media. Nobody covers the safe landings at the airport; only the crashes.
To make your story interesting, there has to be a problem or a conflict. Otherwise, it’s just not interesting.
The key, of course, is to take your “horror story” and give it have a happy ending. Hopefully, your campaign or organization is what brings about, or can bring about, such a happy ending.
2.) Set the scene
In introducing your story, the opening should include some or all of the following set-up information…
- The date
- The time
- The place
- Whether it’s hot or cold
- The season
- The age of the character(s)
- Gender: Male or female
I never really thought about it before, but as Perry pointed out the country music genre does this more often and better than most other types of music.
Just listen to the lyrics of many country-western songs and you’ll see what I mean. Songs like Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue.” Here’s how that story begins…
Well my daddy (character) left home when I was three (age)
And he didn’t leave much to Ma (character) and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze
Now, I don’t blame him (gender) ’cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue” (name)
Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk
It seems I had to fight my whole life through
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red (color)
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head
I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy (gender) named “Sue”
Well, I grew up (age) quick and I grew up mean
My fist got hard and my wits got keen
Roam from town to town to hide my shame
But I made me a vow to the moon and stars
I’d search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man (gender) who gave me that awful name
Well, it was Gatlinburg (place) in mid-July (season)
And I just hit town and my throat was dry (hot)
I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew
At an old saloon (place) on a street of mud
There at a table, dealing stud
Sat the dirty, mangy dog (character) that named me “Sue”
Did that set the scene? Interesting story? You betcha.
3.) The Formula
Movies are stories communicated via video/film. And they generally follow this proven, time-tested script formula, a classic example of which, Perry explained, was the original “Die Hard” movie.
I’m just going to assume you’ve seen it – maybe a hundred times!
- Establish normality, where everything is going along just fine
In Die Hard, the story opens with New York Detective John McLane flying to Los Angeles to visit his family for Christmas and hopefully reconcile with his wife. Totally normal.
- Inciting incident where things take a turn for the worse.
In Die Hard, his wife’s normal office Christmas party at the Nakatomi building is interrupted by bad guys who break in, guns a’blazing, and take hostages.
In Die Hard, it’s Hans Gruber and his team of armed “terrorists” (actually, bank robbers).
In politics, it’s your opponent or some other key adversary. For conservatives that could be Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg or the “fake news” media.
In Die Hard that role is played by L.A. cop Al Powell, who was first to arrive at Nakatomi Plaza before anyone outside knew about the building’s seizure and opened up a walkie-talkie dialogue with McLane.
In politics, the “sidekick” is often an individual who personally exemplifies the issue at hand. Maybe the survivor of a shooting, a senior citizen victimized by government red tape, a business owner harassed by government bureaucrats or regulations, etc.
- Tension rises
In Die Hard, the cat-and-mouse between McLane trying to beat the bad guys and Gruber trying to catch McLane before he can spoil his plans to steal $640 million worth of bearer bonds.
The pot finally boils over. “Yippee Ki Yay, mother-(expletive)!”
The villain loses. Hans falls from the top of the building to his death.
- Lesson(s) learned
- “Get the girl”
Another way of saying “happy ending.” Things are now better than before.
If you haven’t seen Die Hard, the same script formula is expertly laid out in “Shrek.” Or “Tommy Boy.”
If you haven’t seen any of these movies, get thee to Netflix!
Here’s the thing:
If you have a powerful story to tell about your candidacy, your campaign or your organization, you don’t want to just go out there and talk/write about it off the cuff.
Some serious thought and planning are called for…especially since you’re going to be repeating the story at different times in different venues to different audiences.
You want to make sure you “stay on script.”
So write out your script just like the best, most successful script-writers in Hollywood do. And if you want to see exactly what this looks like – and this is a Winners Circle tip you’re not going to get from anyone else! – go to www.imsdb.com
Pick a movie. Any movie. Just enter the title in the search box. When you do, you’ll be taken to the movie’s script page. Just look for the link to “Read Script” and click on it. Viola!
Here’s the opening to the script for Die Hard. Notice how it sets the scene…
* * *
1 405 FREEWAY – LOS ANGELES – EARLY EVENING
Christmas tinsel on the light poles. We ARE LOOKING east past
Inglewood INTO the orange grid of L.A. at night when suddenly
we TILT UP TO CATCH the huge belly of a landing 747 — the
noise is deafening.
2 INT. 747 – PASSENGERS – SAME
The usual moment just after landing when you let out that sigh
of relief that you’ve made it in one piece. As the plane TAXIS
to its gate, they stir, gather personal belongings.
3 ON JOHN MCCLANE
Mid-thirties, good-looking, athletic and tired from his trip.
He sits by the window. His relief on landing is subtle, but
we NOTICE. Suddenly, he hears —
* * *
And away we go.
Tell stories. But don’t reinvent the wheel. Just follow the script for writing a script and you’ll be MILES ahead of your opponent and competition.