This post offers a step-by-step guide for the well-told story. The Hero’s Journey is a structure that is timeless, and deployed across all industries and sectors.

A very rewarding aspect of my work is enthusing others about the value and importance of Corporate Storytelling. This is especially the case when I’m invited to undertake storytelling training for organisations, as was recently the case by the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification. This great NGO helps to ensure that forests are managed sustainably, and includes the promotion of workers’ and indigenous rights. It’s an ideal subject for storytelling, simply because many people don’t realise how much positive change forest certification can bring to people’s lives across the globe.

Sure-fire win

For this training, I undertook a close examination of how to effectively structure stories, and focused on the ‘Hero’s Journey’. This approach is a sure-fire win for getting any compelling message across and why I’m dedicating this post to its importance.

Broadly speaking, there are three key elements to the Hero’s Journey. The first aspect is to identify the hero. This can be an individual or an organisation, but in general, storytelling works best when describing an individual (or group of individuals, such as a family). Any description of a hero should detail the challenges that they are facing – what is preventing them from progressing in life. Overcoming these challenges is the Hero’s Quest. Other considerations when selecting a hero should include:

  • What kind of job do they do?
  • What inspires this person, what drives them professionally?
  • On a personal level what are they like?
  • What makes them care about their job?

And crucially:

  • What should make the audience care about them?

Your organisation acts as mentor

The second phase of the Hero’s Journey is to identify the mentor. This is the individual or organisation that deploys the expertise that the hero needs to achieve their quest. You or your organisation should be the mentor. To flesh out the details of the mentor’s role, consider the following questions:

  • What is the story about?
  • What problem is the hero trying to address?
  • What is the main challenge faced by the hero? Why is the challenge of significance?
  • What is the quest the hero engages in to tackle the challenge?
  • What are the setbacks?

The transformation of the ‘happy ending’

The third and final phase is that of the transformation or ‘happy ending’. This demonstrates the positive impact and change that the mentor brought for the hero, how they helped the hero to achieve their quest. Key elements of the evidence for this transformation include:

  • Why did the hero choose your organisation?
  • How has the situation of the hero now improved thanks to your organisation?
  • What do they find particularly noteworthy about your organisation? Are there unexpected benefits?
  • Is there anything specific about your organisation the hero would like to highlight?
  • Would the hero recommend organisation to others? Why and how?

An extraordinarily compelling example of the Hero’s Journey is told her by Cafod, A Journey in the Dark. Its power comes in part from the visible impact of the story – which undergoes a thrilling transition towards the end. I wish I’d written it myself! It’s very unlikely that this impact could come across as well – if at all – with the ‘story’ merely as a list of information and statistics.

People resonate better with stories than with raw information simply because they empathise with the person whose story is described.

Stories always resonate better than raw information

Remember, people resonate better with stories than with raw information simply because they empathise with the person whose story is described. Having an outside consultant research and write these stories for you can save you two things: money and time. If you write stories yourself you will be taking up time that could be spent on other projects, and if you hire a full-blown communications’ agency to write them, you will be spending money over the odds.

But how would these stories be best used? I’d suggest that they’re of equal value to communications, and funding and donor relations professionals alike. Greater funding can be attained when the Hero’s Journey is used for presentations (such as in PowerPoint), donor papers, one-to-one conversations with individual donors and collateral material such as fundraising packs.

For communications managers, the Hero’s Journey can be deployed for greater visibility and reputational reach. At the very least, your organisational website can be populated with well-written content, the primary vehicle for communications’ information. When linked to social media posts, this will help increase support for the organisation. And don’t forget too that stories can be a great means for internal communication.

So imagine what could happen if you met me for a quick coffee and I could quickly – and cost-effectively! – transform your raw data into a series of Hero’s Journeys. You and your organisation will win more exposure, and these well-told stories will get across the message that funding is required to support your organisation’s needs. Furthermore your chief executive will see how the organisation stands out as an industry leader.

So why not drop me an email or give me a call?

If you’ve enjoyed reading my articles, don’t forget sign up for a free story audit consultation or check out my LinkedIn page. 

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