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Happy ever after: how to combine storytelling and events to reach hearts

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Lucy Gillions is co-founder and managing director of Jackanory.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

Robert McKee, the famous creative writing instructor, once said: “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today”. In the age of 'swiping right' and instant updates, however, you might be tempted to wonder whether storytelling is a dying art.

The truth is that the same model of storytelling used by Shakespeare is still in use today and, incredibly, has lost none of its power to engage an audience: an exposition, compounding action, climax, falling action, and a final outcome. Why does this continue to work so well?

A story can go where quantitative analysis can’t: straight to our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire, fire or motivate them to do something.

As you can see, it’sIt’s not difficult to see how events, for example, and story telling can go hand-in-hand. Collide the senses with the powerful emotions stories can evoke and you’ve got an unforgettable experience right there. At Jackanory the events and experiences we create for our clients are steeped in story telling. Here’s a quick guide to how we go about it:

Set the exposition

Establish the characters and the brand story. Is it a new or an old pre-loved one that just needs a new edition? Innovative theatre company Punchdrunk is a pioneer in event storytelling. They’ve created a game changing form of theatrical event in which roaming audiences experience epic storytelling inside sensory worlds. They build character, dialogue and the story and sweep their audiences along through a dazzling and truly unforgettable event.

The compounding action

Who are you telling the story to and what’s the initial hook? What single event will get them interested? What action do we want people to rise to? We recently held a conference based on a ‘quirky’ Alice in Wonderland theme. Building the drama for delegates we started them in a room that got smaller and smaller and then took them down the rabbit hole, landing at the Mad Hatters Tea Party! Creating curiosity, intrigue and mystery at every turn, we played on the story-telling and heightened emotion to tell the brand’s story.

The climax

How do we make sure that this story forms a new narrative? What’s going to make people go ‘wow’? Think of the ultimate event in 2012, the London Olympics. Everyone expected a powerful opening ceremony, a full event that showcased the best the country has to offer. Nobody expected a sky-diving Queen – that was how they ensured this story had a new narrative and had millions gasping at their screens. Take the unusual, be brave and make your event the one that people talk about.

The falling action and final outcome

How do you ensure your story will be told again and again? What will people want to do once they’ve been on this journey? What’s the ‘Dénouement’? Taking people on an exceptional and sensory emotional journey will leave them feeling exhilarated and in the mood to share their experience with others.

Building on a nostalgia theme, Jackanory brought baking back to the heart of the home through our two-week ‘better baking’ boutique for Dr. Oetker. We hooked consumers with interesting workshops, engaged them emotionally through nostalgia and the joys of baking, and encouraged them to share their very own baking hints and tips on social platforms, cementing Dr. Oetker as a go-to brand for novice bakers.

Too often brands only engage with people on a rational level but this isn’t enough to actually change behaviour. Storytelling, particularly when married with events, allows brands and businesses to change perceptions and motivate people. People crave a ‘wow’, something memorable, something to talk about. Provide that and you’ll be on your way to having a success story of your own.

The End.

Lucy Gillions is co-founder and managing director of Jackanory.

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