Bambi and Jaws

You should try to wrap up all the elements of your message into a story. What do I mean by a story? I like this definition from How to Write Your Best Story, by Philip Martin: “A story goes somewhere. It follows, with purpose, one or more characters through a series of events. By the end, it arrives at its target destination, fulfilling its reason for having been told.” When you tell a story, it’s easier for your audience to follow, remember and repeat it to others – and get them to act on your idea.

One of my favorite stories came from, of all places, the Department of Natural Resources in North Carolina. A number of years ago, North Carolina experienced shark attacks off its coast so the department wanted to come up a communication that wouldn’t discount the attacks but would put them in perspective, because they were, in fact, quite rare. So they came up with a fabulous story, the gist of which is that more people in North Carolina are killed by Bambi than by Jaws. It was engaging and its point stuck with me. And it stuck with a lot of people, because many folks still hit the beaches in North Carolina that summer (given current conditions on the beaches, it may be a good idea to roll this promotion out again!).

If you think about great communicators in general, they’re good story tellers. They have this of way of weaving their point into an anecdote that people can relate to their life experience and remember. Great orators of history – from Cicero to those of the current day – communicate via stories.

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