The Startup Business - Dr Ross McKenzie

How To Tell A Great Story

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Certainly Mark Twain knew how to write and tell great stories.

The American author and humourist, known for his works Adventures Of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, also had an enduring wit and insight into everyday life.

He was an extraordinary communicator and is a worthy study for today’s challenge of how you can cut through and get your message across.

Now if you are a marketer, a copy writer, a journalist and of course writer, you may consider yourself as being good at writing stories.

But just for a moment let us forget our “labels” and go back to a time when we were children…

Do you remember a time when you listened to somebody, maybe your father, your mother, your uncle, your teacher tell you a story?

They were not reading from a book.

They were there acting the story out right in front of you.

You could see the mystical characters before your eyes.

You hid in the scary parts.

You crunched your face in the messy parts and you laughed out loud in the funny parts!

I remember a story my father would tell…

In fact over time, we would ask him “Dad tell us the story of Johnny McGlory!”.

Now Johnny of course was not your normal sort of person.

In fact, he lived in the back garden and was a leprechaun!

For those of you who do not know, leprechaun’s are a type of fairy in Irish folklore and are better known to be a mischief maker!

We would laugh along with the story of the mischief Johnny would create!

Now when I reflect on this today, decades later, the story is a rich as if it was just yesterday.

Why is that?

Well I do not want become clinical here, but fundamentally Johnny McGlory was fun in which I associate happy times.

Now my father of course was not random in his choice of character. There was always a moral message underpinning the story.

Sort of like Aesop’s Fables.

You see my father would generally tell the story of Johnny McGlory when we went on a long car trip.

Now picture this…

A Valiant (Chrysler) station wagon.

Mum and Dad in the front bench seat

My brother and two sisters in the middle bench seat.

My other sister and myself, dog, pet turtles squashed on the very back and in those days there were no extra seating or seatbelts.

On top of the car was a homemade rack for all the bags.

A seven to eight-hour road trip was ahead, where there was ongoing fighting for window seats, car sickness etc etc.

In fact, it was shear hell.

So enter Johnny!

Johnny was created so that there was a sense of peace as far as possible for the two adults.

You see the moral lesson of Johnny was that for all his mischief, there was always going to be a consequence – and as mischievous children, we knew what that meant!

So what on earth does this have to do with you and your business today?

Well simply that if you want to have an impact, if you want to be memorable it’s not just about telling the facts, or as Mark Twain says “the truth”.

You need to build stories around your business, around your brand.

You need to create an identity so that people relate and importantly take the necessary action.

For my father, Johnny McGlory was his answer to a trouble free eight-hour journey with five naughty children!

So with St Patrick’s Day just around the corner, who is your Johnny McGlory?