Story Wars? That’s right. Sometimes today’s fast-paced, 24-hour, digital media landscape can indeed seem like a battlefield. Every time we lob a new message into the fray, we hope it’ll win hearts and minds, but we aren’t surprised when it “bombs.”
Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars: Why those who tell—and live—the best stories will rule the future, says that either our stories inspire participation and evangelism by audiences or they wither.
Sachs makes the case that the storyteller who will “rule the future” must begin to see herself as a modern-day myth-maker—someone who sees gaps in the stories we’ve been telling ourselves and fills them, creating new meaning and rituals and encouraging her audiences on their path to fulfillment.
He knows what he’s talking about. He’s the brain behind some of the most popular, viral, for-good-not-just-profit messages of our time, including Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, The Meatrix, Grocery Store Wars and many others. He’s a co-founder and CEO of Free Range Studios.
The book came out in 2012 and I’ve been meaning to write about it every since. I’ll be issuing a series of Flashcards that sum up the key lessons. (I also recommend reading the book and checking out the resources at winningthestorywars.com)
Let’s start with the basics—five elements of winning stories and five pitfalls to avoid (Sachs calls them the Deadly Sins!).
5 Elements of Good Stories—5 Deadly Sins
YOUR STORY SHOULD BE…1) Tangible—It’s like we can touch and see your ideas.
2) Relatable—Good behavior is rewarded and bad is punished. Our values are reinforced.
3) Immersive—We can imagine ourselves in the story. 4) Memorable—Paint vivid “pictures in our minds.” 5) Emotional—Facts and data aren’t enough; you make us feel something.
DON’T DEFAULT TO…1) Vanity—It’s about you, not your audience. 2) Authority—Spewing facts without saying why it matters. 3) Puffery—Commands, not inspiration to act, join, or engage. 4) Insincerity—Telling us what we want to hear, not expanding our thinking. 5) Gimmickry—Going for quick laughs and missing meaningful connections.
That book looks like a useful primer on basic marketing/spinning techniques.
Government agents tell stories to the public all the time. That phenomenon is increasing in both importance and sophistication. There are sources for information about that darker side of “storytelling” on the interwebs. Here are two:
November’s Senate vote of 59-41 showed a deficit of thought. Thinking in Congress has now been completely suspended.
The Tar Sands issue hinges on the scientific consensus and risks associated with CO2 emissions being limited to 1 trillion tons in an effort to mitigate the earth’s temperature rise below 2 degrees celsius. Providing a ‘pipeline’ for the dirtiest of fossil fuels opens a valve which essentially assures failure…..not a very thoughtful thing to do.
Sorry, if you haven’t figured out the scientific evidence by now, you are likely an invested member of the Upton Sinclair club; “it’s hard to get someone to understand something if their salary depends on them NOT understanding it.”
Unhealthy jobs, leading to an unhealthy planet can be transformed. In fact, they have to be. The transition to clean energy is win win.
Exxon Mobil’s announcements (link above) underline the reality, albeit without guilt, and admit the ‘costs’ everyone is setting aside.
The President, if forced to approve the Pipeline, should make his approval contingent upon EM’s projected cost of $80/ton CO2, applied to the estimated 150 million tons / year.
The proceeds being applied to the costs of clean-up and all forms of mitigation, including Research and Development.
Thank you for writing. I want you to know I take your thoughts about the Keystone XL pipeline very seriously, and I appreciate your taking the time to share them with me.
We know a low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come. I want America to build that engine, which is why my Administration has invested aggressively in renewables and energy efficiency. But it’s also true that we cannot complete that transition overnight, which is why we have taken steps to produce more oil here at home rather than buying it abroad.
No matter what, allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to be built requires a determination that it will serve our national interest, and the State Department is running a process to make this determination. I want to be absolutely clear: this project will only serve our national interest if it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.
Thank you, again, for your message—it will be on my mind in the days ahead.