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Five Business Storytelling Lessons ...

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I came across this video “Never Estimate the Power of a Great Story” back in 2009.

Even knowing the ending, the humor still slaps you across the face.

After a recent watch, I realized the video delivers a few pain-free lessons in business storytelling.

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Sure, the protagonist manages to escape death several times — machine guns, a cut-down tree, a waterfall that looks like Niagara Falls and a circular saw — but there are some classic storytelling techniques at work:

1. Creating drama calls for bad stuff to happen to the main character: Naturally, companies struggle with this one. Communication professionals are schooled in telling positive stories and when “negatives” do surface, the work goes into how to diffuse, not accentuate, the “negatives.” Yet, without the bad stuff, there is no drama.

2.  Exaggeration: Whether it’s words or visuals, exaggeration catches the viewer’s attention. I think of  these as “what the hell” moments. When the protagonist in the video is hugging the tree and you hear the chain saw scream to life, you’re thinking “what the hell.”

3. Incongruity: The dictionary defines this word as “strange because of not agreeing with what is usual or expected.” I love this storytelling technique. When the video shows the protagonist down to his boxers being engulfed in some type of wooden box, it’s definitely incongruent. By the way, this technique is particularly effective in the B2B world where elements from everyday life are often incongruent with a given industry.

4. The unexpected: As you wind your way toward the conclusion of the video (second 54), the last thing you expect is our boy rationalizing to the husband how he ended up in the closet.

5. Levity: As shared before, I view levity as the killer app for business communications. Because companies tend to take themselves so seriously, giving the reader/viewer/listener a reason to simply smile is a winning action.

 

It’s true that the production quality of the Canal+ video also played a role in the narrative. Filming a guy dodging bullets takes serious money.

Still, the techniques in the video hold relevance for business communicators.

Like the bad things encountered by the main character in the video, the negative occurrences in a company offer opportunities to share narratives that the outside world will care about. Have you ever watched a movie or read a novel where everything went according to plan?

Of course not.

Perfection bores people.

For PR types and brand builders, it’s a matter of teasing out those negative occurrences in stories that have happy endings. For more on this topic, check out “The ‘F’ Word in Business Communications.”


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