For years I’ve been searching for a simple way of summing up how we approach our work.
Part of the struggle is my natural antipathy for a ‘one size fits all’ approach. After all, we work for juice brands and investment banks, underground farms and space ports, real department stores and virtual department stores, shed-based start-ups and global brands, academics and schools of life.
How do you work out a methodology that applies to all of these gloriously disparate businesses?
For a long time it eluded me. Then I put the telly on.
I happened to switch on to Raiders of the Lost Ark. As I sat there watching the story unfold for the umpteenth time I started to think about how a client’s story would fit if mapped against the script of the film. Were there some essential parts of the structure of the film that would lend themselves to a corporate narrative as effortlessly as the story guides the hero to resolution?
The thought stuck with me and over the next few weeks I watched a whole series of adventure movies – Stallone’s back catalogue, the best of Kurt Russell, The Sound of Music, Battleship (not ‘Potemkin’ – I mean the modern classic starring Tyler Kitsch), Romancing the Stone, an occasional Schwarzenegger, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Journey to the Center of the Earth. There’s a pattern underpinning all of these stories.
Then I met the work of Blake Snyder.
Blake was a screenwriting guru who wrote a brilliant book called Save the Cat. His book is about the structure of stories – and yes, there is one that underpins most commercially successful movies.
The pattern, which I’ve now adapted and plotted against each of our programmes for clients, makes complete and utter sense.
It breaks into phases:
There’s the statement of the theme – and then the ‘save the cat’ moment, which is the announcement designed to form a strong emotional connection with the audience.
There’s the break into two section, when the action alternates between mirroring streams of corporate announcements and fun and games. Here there’s a repertoire of techniques that we use – traditional storytelling, stunts, pop-ups, video, social engagement and much, much more.
There’s even a strategy for dealing with the ‘all is lost’ moment that might come at the end of the second act. Our job is to prepare for this, safeguard against it, and build up the goodwill required to help a brand through a difficult experience. Perception minus reality equals PR value.
Importantly there’s also a frequent cliffhanger, to keep the audience engaged. Have I told you about the….?
Oh, no, perhaps I’d better save that bit of news for when we meet.
Our programmes for our clients obviously pan out over a much longer timeframe than a 100 minute piece of celluloid, but the story’s unfolding has many parallels with the way that we structure our work. And it’s our job to keep our client’s customers and potential customers riveted, in their seats and never wanting the story to end.
I’m always glad to discuss. I’ll bring the popcorn. To be continued….