Finding your Story

In the last article, I covered the core story ingredients.

In this article, I’ll share my process for uncovering the shoots of a compelling story, even when that story doesn’t seem immediately obvious.

I'll do this with the following example: An ESG firm selling SaaS to ecommerce stores.

Let’s go.

The fundamental ingredients

I start by breaking out the three core ingredients and then brainstorming around each.

The goal here is to:

  • Get down as many potential heroes as possible
  • Get down as many desirable outcomes (related to your service) as possible
  • Get down as many ‘potential’ big ideas as possible

Set a thirty-minute time limit.

That’s for two reasons. Firstly, to create urgency and energy. Secondly, it’ll help to keep going for that set amount of time (not until it gets difficult or you get bored).

Once that’s done, come back the next day with a second brainstorming session.

In the first session, you get out all the obvious ideas - the benefit of the second is that you go deeper and get less obvious, more interesting observations.

You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

I get all hero, desired outcomes, and ideas out on post-it notes.

Once that's done, plot out those ideas into a story statement.

Remember the structure for a story statement?

I want to share how [hero] can [achieve desirable outcome] through [big idea].

The first round looks something like this:

I get down a rough version of the story statement

It's a bit clunky, but that's fine for the first round. I just want to get the concept on paper.

Later, with a fresh mind, I'll get that on a whiteboard to play around with the concepts and wording, seeing how different combinations work until we have something that feels like a good fit.

Then I expand on the original statement, coming up with all sorts of alternative options

Then later, I finalise it:

I want to share how eco-conscious brands can improve ecommerce sales by sharing sustainability with transparency when it matters most - at checkout.

The monster

For some clients I work with, the event is obvious. If all your customers are tech startups that have just received Series A and need to get to Series B, the event that set everything in motion was the Series A investment.

For other clients, the event isn’t as clear, and when that’s the case, I like to work on the monster first.

Here’s how:

I ask why questions to break down the Big Idea and understand how it impacts the outcome.

In my example:

Why do eco-conscious brands want to share sustainability impact?

Eco-conscious brands want to share sustainability impact because it’s a key purchasing factor for some buyers.

Why does it need to be clear and transparent?

Firstly, because a lot of sustainability information can be confusing, and the more you make them think, the less likely they are to buy. Secondly, because transparent information is more likely to be accurate and true.

Why at checkout?

Because it’s the equivalent of a user picking up a product in the supermarket aisle and reading the label before deciding whether to put it in the basket. In the context of sustainability, if the buyer is unsure whether your impact aligns with their values, they leave without buying.
Having broken down the big idea, it seems that everything we offer is based on the belief that increased trust in sustainability credentials will lead to the desired outcome (more sales).
Idea and monster are two contrasting sides of the same coin.
If the idea is trust, the monster is doubt.

The event

Now that we know the monster, we ask the following questions to uncover the event that gave birth to the monster and made this big idea (to increase trust at checkout) necessary.

Has this monster always been a problem?

No, having done some research, doubt surrounding sustainability claims didn’t seem to be a problem until the 2010s.

So why is it a problem now?

Again, having done some research, it stems from the rise of sustainability branding in the 2000s and 2010s. Once sustainability became a big deal to mainstream markets, mainstream brands incorporated sustainability claims into their messaging. Several high-profile claims were misleading (or false), leading to the term greenwashing, where brands made sustainability claims to cover up unethical practices.

We’ve got clarity on story direction now.

When greenwashing became a widely acknowledged activity, consumers started to question sustainability claims.

And although the demand for sustainable products has increased since then, the doubt around those claims has followed.

That’s our event, and so our story fundamentals look like this:

Event = greenwashing, Monster = doubt

With the ingredients in place, we can start building the story.

That's what what I cover in The Destination.

Want to become a thought leader?

Every 4 weeks, I publish deep dives into B2B thought leaders, breaking down the content strategy they used to go from unknown consultant to top tier personality.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong. Give it another go.

More articles