Telling Stories with Stagger: Stories are everywhere

To celebrate the launch of our private beta, we’ve tapped some of the best storytellers in the business to share with us why storytelling is so important.

First up, we’re introducing you to Andreas Markdalen. He’s the Executive Design Director of frog design who excels and telling stories to and for his clients. We asked Andreas the important of storytelling from a brand point of view. And here’s his response:

Stories are everywhere

Five Principles for Impactful Storytelling

We experience them continuously in our everyday life, consciously or subconsciously. They inspire us. They fuel our motivations. They help us understand the world around us. They help us feel empathy for others. They seduce and entertain us.

Stories, in many ways, define us as people.

Yual Noah Harari, author of best-seller Sapiens, argues that stories and storytelling is what makes our species excel.

Our ability to use stories as a foundation for shared beliefs, kinship and community has allowed for abstract concepts like capitalism, nation states, justice systems, money and laws to become shared truths among us. These are stories and ideas that have successfully transcended generations; due to their resilience and timeless significance to us.

We seem to be able to recognise a good story and its’ qualities intuitively, almost by heart. It’s if like deciphering stories was built in our DNA.

So, what makes a good story?

Here are five basic principles you can think about as you try to reach the world with your story.

1. Know your audience

Stories are crafted by and for people. By mapping out your audience you can adapt your narrative and its’ ingredients for maximum impact. Break down the archetypical characteristics of your audience, illustrate their fears and what culture they are immersed in. Are they analytical or expressive? Are they looking to make a decision based on your story, or just enjoy the moment? What’s happening around them that impacts their perception of your piece? How much time will they be able to spend? How will they find your story?

State clearly what you want your audience to think and feel upon digesting it; what action you want them to take? Push yourself to avoid the stereotypes, think broadly about character traits while finding unique attributes that will distinguish your piece. Finally, speak to your audience; listen to understand their expectations, needs and capture their aspirations. Synthesize the outcomes and get to work.

2. Define clear takeaways

Think quickly of your favourite movie, what makes you love it? How and why do you remember it? Most your memories will combine a positive feeling with a single moment or scene that has been anchored in your mind. Ask yourself, what is the lasting image you want your audience to keep in their mind after exposure to your story? Why and how will it linger?

A great storyteller will maintain 2–3 core themes present throughout the narrative; and use imagery or moments to reinforce these. Think about a primary, secondary and tertiary message that are vital to you, and weigh those against each other. Use them as a point of validation throughout your process, and make sure there are clear anchors within the narrative to set the stage for the the takeaways you want.

3. Set the tone

Stories come in all possible different forms and mediums; the tone of voice often becomes the vessel through which you deliver the message, whether the story would be an image, a text or a video. It’s the character and style that you execute with. The tone speaks directly to your audience; it’s casual or formal, light or sombre, vidid or constrained, inclusive or inclusive, understated or expressive. As you think of your tone, describe the feeling you want to lead with.

Find the polarising vectors around it and use a set of 3–4 axis to map out your playground. Once you’ve identified where you want to play; define the leading characteristics of your voice, the style and the ownable “signatures” that your audience will recognise and associate with you (or your brand). That is your tone. Make sure it is are differentiated and cannot be confused with someone else.

4. Craft the narrative

Most stories will follow a traditional structure that outlines a beginning, a middle and and an end. A motion picture will involve you in more advanced plot mechanics to pull you into its’ journey but it’s rare that your audience will give you 2 hours of their time, so be careful and pay attention when structuring your narrative, to get the desired impact right.

A great way to get started with narratives is to use a tabloid sized paper, capture notes on small stickies and then to start distributing the stickies in sequence on the sheet. Organise them in sequence of priorities you have and of the key points you want to make. Let those be your scenes.

Make sure your takeaways are delivered clearly and consistently through your scenes. Define the climax; does it come early or toward the end?

Highly elaborate narratives with a slow build-up toward momentum (or reveal) toward the end can be perfect in some cases; a disaster in others. Map out the dynamics and tension in your flow; keep your audiences engaged in the right moment. Define the pace. If the story is interactive; map out the interplay and dynamics with the content. Shuffle the stickies around until you have a solid structure; from there you flesh out the content.

5. Edit and test for simplicity

A story is complete when you say everything you need to say but nothing else; when there is nothing left to remove from the story. Be economic in your use of words, imagery and stimuli. Let your audience fill the gaps and to connect the dots using their imagination. The are so many examples of stories that end up feeling too smart, too descriptive, too desperate, to elaborate.

Great editing will take your idea from 1500 words down to 500, from 6 colours down to 3 or from 20 images down to 4; and this should be achieve without losing the meaning or impact. Don’t be precious about your ideas, let them become what they need be. Kill your darlings. Re-write. Start fresh. You’ll only get to quality, after quantity. Desired simplicity can only come after revealing the complexity. Test it with your audience; does it hit home? Does it feel right? Does it engage?

Let your story evolve, let it grow over time.

Stories are vessels for us to dream, they trigger our imagination. They are built to pull us in, make us feel something and leave a lasting feeling within.

What feeling will you leave to last?

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    Headquartered in sunny Austin, TX