In a recent podcast episode, I shared the three simple storytelling secrets I came across recently when I revisited the age-old fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Storytelling Secret #1 - Structure Your Story
“Once upon a time.” How many times have you heard that phrase before? For me, they’re comforting words. They tell me, someone’s about to tell a story. The words also provide structure – it signals the start of something. And if there’s one thing that we humans gravitate towards, it’s structure. It provides us with familiarity and comfort – especially during chaotic times like the ones we’re living through right now. Adopt a familiar style or set of words or a phrase that your audience will hear and know where you’re going with it.
Look for ways you can introduce structure into your messaging. Do you have a regular social media feature that your audience looks forward to, like a Tuesday Tips for Friday Fun Fact? What about the structure of your newsletter? Are there familiar elements that your audience starts to look forward to each time? If you have a blog or a YouTube channel or a podcast, do you use familiar intros and outros and musical interludes to provide your audience with a signal about what they can expect next?
These are just a few ways to incorporate structure into YOUR storytelling, but even these simple approaches can make your messaging clearer and more consistent and memorable for your target audience.
Storytelling Secret #2 - Use the Rule of 3
Many fairy tales use the Rule of 3 storytelling approach. Besides Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, there’s the tale of The 3 Little Pigs and the story of The 3 Billy Goats Gruff. And there are plenty of other example inside traditional tales like Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella and Snow White that do things in sets of 3. And there’s a reason for this. It turns out, 3 is the smallest recognizable pattern, which helps make it more memorable for audiences. And since most traditional stories were told orally, early storytellers needed all the help they could get to remember their own stories and help their audiences remember them as well.
Just think of all the messages we get in 3s even as adults: Stop, drop and roll. Location, location, location. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We’re immersed in a culture that adheres to the Rule of 3 and as a result, we respond well when there are 3 examples given or there are 3 rules to follow or 3 parts of a solution. Now you can’t always provide your solution in 3 parts or provide 3 examples. But it’s something to keep in mind when you’re developing your story brand.
Storytelling Secret #3 - Always Be Testing.
Do you remember the heart of the story when Goldilocks tries each of the three bowls of porridge? The first she finds is too hot. The second one is too cold. And the third is just right. Similarly she sits in 3 chairs. The first is too big. The second is too small. And the third is just right. Finally, she tries out 3 beds. The first is too hard. The second is too soft. And the third is just right. And she falls right asleep!
So what does this teach us. Well, it pays to keep on trying until we find exactly the right fit.
And I love that lesson when it’s applied to our messaging. We don’t always know which words or which call to action or even which product or service is going to land with our audience until we begin experimenting.
And when we do, we’ll find some methods that aren’t a fit – but if we keep trying, we WILL find the right platform or approach that resonates not only with us, but with our audience as well. Don’t be afraid to fail once in a while. Because failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a part of success.