Want to Know if Your Story is Good? Put It Through This Test

February 4, 2019

This test will determine how strong your story really is.

Storytelling is the essence of iconic brands.

There are countless examples of this. Companies like Apple and Jeep and Budweiser have been successful for decades because they are among the best storytellers in the world. All three companies consistently tell stories that appeal to their target market.

Many of us – for many reasons, beyond just marketing – would love to tell great stories as well. The question is, how can you tell if you’ll have a story that’ll appeal to who you are looking to appeal to?

Well, in his free course on LinkedIn Learning, Shane Snow said there are four aspects to any great story: relatability, novelty, tension and fluency. By judging your story on those four merits, you can generally predict if it will connect with your audience..

Want an example? I was hoping you’d ask. Let’s use this framework to judge the first great Super Bowl ad.

How the First Great Super Bowl Commercial Brilliantly Used the 4 Aspects of Storytelling

The first great Super Bowl ad – the one that became a cultural moment, which paved the way for thousands to follow – was done by Coke in 1979. It featured legendary Pittsburgh Steeler Defensive Tackle Mean Joe Greene and a little boy.

Here’s the spot:

Okay, let’s apply Snow’s rubric to see if the commercial tells a compelling story. Let's break it down by aspet:

  • Relatability. The goal of relatability is to conjure empathy. And I think we all immediately have empathy for the boy, whose star struck seeing his favorite player. Analysis: It passes with flying colors.
  • Novelty. Novelty means telling a story that hasn’t been told before. When it premiered, Greene was considered the toughest, gruffest player in football. The idea of him connecting with a little kid or showing any soft side at all was new. Analysis: It passes.
  • Tension. I love the tension here; it’s about a boy trying to connect with the toughest player in the NFL, and not getting anywhere. And it builds; he fails the first few times. When he finally connects with Greene, the story provides almost a sense of relief. Analysis: It passes with flying colors.
  • Fluency. This basically means that the story is told as efficiently as it can be; it moves along. Quite honestly, I think you could tighten up this story to make it even quicker. But you also have to remember it was made in 1979. Back then, commercials and movies generally moved slower, and so while it can feel a bit slow to our standards, it moves quite fast back then. Analysis: It passes, considering the era.

The commercial possess all four aspects of what makes a great story. No wonder it was successful.

How This Storytelling Test Applies to You – Even if You Aren’t a Marketer

This article feels like a great piece to share with a marketer. But it’s really for everyone.

It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter what your goals are. Your ability to tell effective stories will have a big impact on your life – they’ll help you land better jobs, give better presentations, connect with more people, etc.

The challenge has always been figuring out if a story is good or not.

Snow’s method can help. By looking it through the four lenses he provided, you can see how effective your story really is.

Want to learn more? Watch Shane Snow’s full course on storytelling today on LinkedIn Learning. The best news? It’s free.