Discover more from Kevan Lee
435. Storytelling frameworks 🧶
10 ways to tell better stories to your teams, in your talks, and on your websites
Hi there 👋
Who here will be in New York this fall? I’ll be in town November 2-3, and I’d love to see you. Send me a reply, and we’ll set something up!
I’ll be speaking at Hotjar’s HOTSAUCE conference, which I highly recommend attending — you can get a discount by using KEVAN-LEE when you register. I’ll be speaking about the power of creativity in marketing. It’ll be good! (once I actually write it out)
Wishing you a great week ahead,
Say hi anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
10 Favorite Storytelling Frameworks to Boost Your Marketing, Your Ideas, and Your Influence
As I’ve been preparing for my HOTSAUCE conference talk, I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to express ideas on stage. Turns out, the answers are quite similar to how I best express ideas at work or on websites or in headlines or when managing up.
Stories are such a central part of our marketing jobs and our marketing careers. Jobs-wise, stories underpin our entire brand strategy (see more here).
And with careers, the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories we tell to others can make a huge difference in how we feel and where we fit.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a few favorite frameworks that I’ve used to good effect in the day-to-day marketing work of strategy-setting and copywriting and in the leadership work of presenting ideas to crowds and C-suites. Here are my Top Ten.
1 - DIBBs
D - Data
I - Insight
B - Belief
B - Bet
Spotify popularized this framework within its product team when it came to setting strategy and making arguments. I’ve adopted it as a high-level framework for the strategic documents that I write for my teams.
Basically, I start my marketing strategy documents (like this one) with a review of the most critical data for my team. From that data, I’m then able to draw insights that will inform the strategies that I set — and buy me some credibility with leadership, who love data-backed insights. The core of my strategy document is then my beliefs (the strategic pillars) and my bets (the tactics within the strategies).
2 - Minto pyramid
Start with the answer, then explain your reasoning
People are busy. Executives are busy. Your customers are busy. That’s why the Minto Pyramid can be so effective because you cut right to the chase: Give people the answer before you get into all the rationale and reasoning behind the answer.
3 - Before – After – Bridge
Before – Here’s your world …
After – Imagine what it’d be like, having Problem A solved …
Bridge – Here’s how to get there.
We used this one all the time at Buffer when we wrote the intros to blog posts. You describe a problem, describe a world where that problem doesn’t exist, then explain how to get there. I
4 - Problem – Agitate – Solve
Identify a problem
Agitate the problem
Solve the problem
Copyblogger calls this formula the key to dominating social media. It’s the Rosetta Stone for copywriting. It’s ubiquitous in marketing copy and headline writing. And you can see its influence on so many other storytelling formulas — for instance, with Before-After-Bridge, instead of describing a life without the problem (the “After” part), PAS describes life if the problem were to persist (the “Agitate” part).
5 - Features – Advantages – Benefits (FAB)
Features – What you or your product can do
Advantages – Why this is helpful
Benefits – What it means for the person reading
Most marketing storytellers have heard the advice (or given the advice) to focus on benefits, not features — on Mario’s fireball-throwing superpower, not the fireball flower. This formula can be a helpful reminder of how to get yourself from a feature-heavy story to a benefits-heavy one.
6 - The 4 C’s
Not so much a formula as rules to live by. In marketing and in life!
7 - The 4 U’s
Useful – Be useful to the reader
Urgent – Provide a sense of urgency
Unique – Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow unique
Ultra-specific – Be ultra-specific with all of the above
I particularly love that this one calls out being “ultra-specific,” since that can be such a differentiator amidst the noise of social media and the flood of copywriting.
8 - Attention – Interest – Desire – Action (AIDA)
Attention – Get the reader’s attention
Interest – Interesting and fresh information that appeals to the reader
Desire – Benefits of your product/service/idea and proof that it does what you say
Action – Ask for a response
AIDA has been around foreverrrrr. It’s been used for direct mail, television and radio, sales pages, landing pages, and so much more. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
9 - A FOREST
A – Alliteration
F – Facts
O – Opinions
R – Repetition
E – Examples
S – Statistics
T – Threes (Repeat something three times to make it memorable.)
This is a favorite one of mine because it’s fun to recall as an acronym, and it has aseveral unique reminders inside of how to tell effective stories — for example, repetition, stats, and the rule of three (there, I just used the rule of three without even meaning to).
10 - The Fan Dancer
Be specific without actually explaining anything
What is a “fan dancer”? Well, it’s nothing really. But did it make me want to read more to find out what it is? Sure! This is the entire point of this storytelling style — use specific details to create curiosity and get someone to keep reading, keep clicking, or keep listening to find out more.
BONUS: OATH Formula
These are the four stages of your market’s awareness of your product/service/idea.
Having spent many years in category creation mode, I can definitely vouch for the idea that certain audiences will be oblivious to what you’re selling, and you need to give them a very different story than you do to those who are thinking or hurting.
About this newsletter …
Hi, I’m Kevan, a marketing exec based in Boise, Idaho, who specializes in startup marketing and brand-building. I previously built brands at Oyster, Buffer, and Vox. Each week, I share playbooks, case studies, stories, and links from inside the startup marketing world. Not yet subscribed? No worries. You can check out the archive, or sign up below:
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