Books that changed my life 6 – Story

This book is different from the others so far, in that it has no direct connection to business. Its a book called Story, about the principles of screenwriting, by THE guru of the subject, Robert McKee. If you ever saw the wacky movie  Adaptation, with Nicolas Cage as a struggling screenwriter, Cage goes to see one of McKee’s classes.

So, why pick this book?

First, I’m fascinated by how you can apply the principles of screenplays to business. These principles can help you write a presentation you’re giving. Here are a couple to give you a taste:

– Key message/moral:
all great stories have a moral, or message. For example, in James Bond its always "Bond’s beats the baddie to save the world"
=> Whilst it seems obvious to ensure that every presentation should have a central message, how many time have you sat through Powerpoint hell then you’re left thinking "what the hell are they on about?".

– Start with a bang: every movie has an "inciting incident", some event that triggers the string of subsequent events. In my fave film of all time, Jerry McGuire, its Tom Cruise’s sports agent having a crisis of conscience when one of his clients, and American footballer, get a near-fatal concussion
=> make sure your presentation has a single, key issue that you use to kick-start it. For example, "Brand stretch is on the top of many company’s top ways to grow… but the chances of winning are worst than betting all their money on black at the casino…less than 1 in 2 brand extensions are successful."

Second, the whole idea of storytelling can be applied to make your marketing much more interesting. Rather than thinking of communication as one-off, un-related activities, why not think of them as "episodes" in a story that is revealed over time. The most obvious example of this is the "soap opera"
style campaigns used by Oxo, Cointreau and Nescafe over the years.  But think about the way the Absolut and Economist campaigns have evolved over the years with different episodes.

Third, and most personally, I went to one of Robert McKee’s seminars myself, this one on thriller writing, to help me with my own novel. My ambition is to write the "John Grisham of branding", with a high-octane mix of money, murder and sex set in the glamorous world of luxury cosmetics. The first draft is done, but don’t hold your breath…its been sat on the shelf for the last 2 years waiting to be re-written….