How to Tell an Epic Story in Five Everyday Steps

We already know the power of telling a great story for our clients. We want to sell that punch-in-the-gut moment, the horse and the puppy Super Bowl tear-jerker, time and time again.

I was reading an article recently, however, about what comprises an epic relationship. The author surmised, nicely, that at a distance sweeping romances and lifelong relationships are, indeed, epic, but upon closer look, are made up of 20,000 everyday Wednesdays.

It made me think that in marketing and PR, we are always looking for the next big story, or the next great angle on our product, service or business.

Awesome. That’s our job, and it’s why the people who are making sure their products or services actually work are paying us to take care of this part of the business.

But a truly sweeping story–the ones that snare us from the first gripping sentence to a neatly resolved “the end”–can’t always be full of narrative climax.

Every story has an arc or dramatic structure, and each piece must fit together with the whole (what good old Walter Fisher would call narrative probability). Gustav Freytag, a German novelist and playwright, identified five parts of the dramatic arc after studying Greek and Shakespearean dramas.

Each part serves to push the audience through the story, and each part–though some parts less narratively sexy than others–plays an important role in how effectively the climax or main idea of the story is conveyed to the audience.

1. Exposition

In this part, important background information is laid out for the audience. You could also call this “context.” Either way, it’s an essential part for building a story that makes sense.

2. Rising Action

This part of the arc is the series of events that build immediately upon the background information and begins to lead the audience toward the point of greatest interest. Interestingly, this part of the arc is arguably more important than the climax, because without these events, the climax will not make sense, will feel jarring…or, frankly, the audience won’t care about the climax in the first place.

3. Climax

This part of the arc is the big moment people talk about after the movie is over, or that “turning point” where things go from bad to good…or sometimes bad to worse (in the case of a tragedy like Titus Andronicus. Shakespeare was dark, ya’ll.)

4. Falling Action

This part of the arc is “what’s next,” where we see if there is a win or lose situation based on the climax, and how characters respond to the “big thing” or turning point in the story.

5. Resolution

In this part of the arc, all conflicts are resolved, characters return to normal life, and there is a pervading sense that the big events that got us here might still shape the future, but they are firmly in the past.

Critics of Freytag’s model are quick to point that this arc only applies to tragedies or dramas, but personally, I’m a big fan of allowing any storytelling theory to be a guide for the way we do PR and marketing.

I’m also a big fan of any model that very closely resembles a sales or buying cycle, and how those models might give us deeper insight on how we might anticipate where customers are in the cycle, and deliver the information they need before they know they need it.

For example, a customer at the very beginning of the sales cycle who is unfamiliar with a brand or product is going to be in dire need of exposition (“Who are you and why should I care?”) whereas a customer who is familiar with a brand or product’s key selling points might need that extra “what’s next” information or story (“Your product sounds great…how does it positively or negatively affect my life?”).

When we can think of the stories we tell as larger parts of the whole, we can more ably tell the smaller stories that pack a little less punch, because we know how they play into the narrative arc.

So tell that epic story. Just remember epic stories are composed of just a few heroic moments…and 20,000 everyday anecdotes.


Written by Sarah J. Storer. Sarah has been a fan of stories ever since she memorized ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ at the ripe old age of three. Today she channels that passion to help individuals and businesses tell their stories with heart. Learn more at about.me/sarahjstorer or follow her on Twitter @sarahjstorer. Visit PRTini.com where this excerpt is originally appeared.

6 Things Entrepreneurs Wish Family, Friends and Employees Understood

Entrepreneurs often feel misunderstood and with good reason. If people around them acknowledge the following six points, everyone can benefit.

I started my first company when I was 25.  I was a reluctant entrepreneur. My sales abilities outgrew three companies, and I couldn’t seem to manage the politics necessary to get where I wanted to go at the speed I wanted to get there. So I took a deep breath, opened a company in 1989, and never looked back.

But in my journey of building four businesses and making the Inc. 500 list, I often found I saw the world differently then many in my circle. I would struggle with communication and empathy, as would the people around me. My family and my friends would never quite understand why I took action with such passion and drive. Though they would be continuously fascinated how I could make things happen from what seemed like unrelated connections and events.

Employees appreciated my drive, but still considered me a puzzlement. They couldn’t imagine taking the risks and responsibility of building a company, and I couldn’t imagine not having control of my own destiny.  I have spent decades in the close company of more than 1000 entrepreneurs in public session like Inc. conferences and in private forums like the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO). I have come to learn that we have similar ways of viewing the world and creating lifestyles. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.

If you are an entrepreneur, you need to articulate the six concepts below so the people in close proximity can comprehend your behavior. And for those of you engaged with an entrepreneur, I hope the tips below shed some light and give you some guidance to enjoy the ride.

1. Entrepreneurs are benevolent narcissists. There is no question that many entrepreneurs act as though they are the center of the universe. Once I get a vision in my head, it stays at the forefront of my mind until I either eliminate it or execute on it. Over time, I have learned that in order to make visions come true, I must constantly sell and recruit people to my mission. That means talking about my ideas and actions… a lot. So yes, my world revolves around my vision and ambition. That is the narcissistic part.

But unlike most self-centered people, most successful entrepreneurs aren’t in it just for themselves. They love to bring other people along for the ride. Making others happy, wealthy and successful drives entrepreneurs. They create companies to benefit society with their products and services. They may interpret that benefit differently than most people, but few are motivated by pure exploitation.

Tip: The next time you feel ignored by an entrepreneur, ask them how you can get involved and benefit from their activities. You may be surprised at the opportunity that opens up.

2. Entrepreneurs evaluate risk differently. The term risk-taker is often associated with entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs don’t believe they are taking risks by opening businesses and growing companies. Gone are the days of institutions that provide steady employment and guaranteed retirement. I personally lost everything in the 2008 collapse of the banking industry. But I have many friends who spent 30 years as employees in that field and also went through great hardship. I was able to rebuild by taking advantage of opportunity and being agile while many of them are still trying to reconstruct their lives.

Entrepreneurs know the only safety net they can bank on is their own ability to leverage knowledge, resources and relationships to build something from nothing. They believe there is greater risk in being boxed in to a structure than to venture out to new horizons. That all being said, many of us have learned to overcome our material desires and put a little away for those rainy days.

Tip: Don’t assume that actions taken by entrepreneurs are careless or not well considered. If you have concern, ask about the process or diligence. You might be surprised what you learn.

3.  Once entrepreneurs decide to take action, they commit. There is an incorrect assumption about most entrepreneurs that they are impulsive. The image of people ideating all over the place and randomly straying from project to project is one that is constantly portrayed in media and is most often a mischaracterization. Most of my successful entrepreneurial friends are actually quite disciplined and focused. They have learned tocreate structure where there is none. They have a set process for evaluating opportunities and are wary about taking on a new project without vetting it carefully.

But once the due diligence is done and action is required seasoned entrepreneurs will commit all necessary time and resources to making the dream a reality. They have no tolerance for doing things halfway. The project may fail, but the entrepreneur will only be satisfied if it does on its own merits. Then it’s time to learn and move on to the next entrepreneurial venture.

Tip: Entrepreneurs in motion are a force of nature. Either get out of the way or support the activity whole-heartedly. Dipping your toe into their projects will only create static and dissatisfaction for everyone involved.

4. Entrepreneurs feel angst about time. There are very few new ideas out there. Hardly anything comes up today that hasn’t shown up in a science fiction novel or movie from decades ago. The innovation comes from ways to execute those ideas in a manner that can support the market and a profitable business model. For every entrepreneur attempting to find that perfect path to success, there are many competitors nipping at their heels. Some have smarter people, more money or better partners. Some have all of the above. But that’s the game. And to the victor goes the spoils.

Once I complete a vision in my head, it’s a race against time to see if that dream becomes a reality. The more complexity involved with the vision, the more challenging time becomes as a factor for success. This is where I use my creativity every day, to figure out how to get from point A to Point B the fastest way possible without sacrificing stability or harming anyone along the way. Executing on my need for speed sometimes results in my being less polite, considerate or reverent than people expect. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that sometimes I am moving so fast I forget to show it.

Tip: Give entrepreneurs the benefit of the doubt when expecting niceties. You don’t need to put up with rudeness, but you can gently remind them that not everyone moves at their pace and others need consideration to feel respected.

5. Every day with positive cash flow is a good day. I remember a few years back being at EO event in Hong Kong at the end of the month. My wife at the time and I were laughing because all around the hotel you could hear the same stressed mobile phone conversations going on about whether or not the attendees had made their payroll obligations for the month. Growing a company requires resources, especially cash, and most entrepreneurs will stretch those limits to make progress quickly in the marketplace.

The lack of resources to battle the competition is usually the number 1 stress point for an entrepreneur. The most painful days in my life have been when I could not meet my financial obligations. Those are the days I feel guilty and inadequate. Those are the days I feel the pain of those who depend upon me. As an entrepreneur I understand that family, partners and employees put their trust in me to help them achieve financial stability. I understand that they do not choose my life because they don’t want to risk instability. As long as there is money in the bank to continue the path forward, every other challenge is minor.

Tip: Don’t assume entrepreneurs are primarily motivated by greed. Certainly they enjoy the rewards that come with success, but they are driven to achieve the security that comes with strong liquidity and cash flow.

6. For entrepreneurs, working means fun and relaxation. Contrary to popular belief, most entrepreneurs are not workaholics. I describe work as the things we have to do in order to do the things we want to do. Some people like to play sports or dance or do woodcraft as a hobby. Entrepreneurs love to build businesses. We get excited about opportunity,  networking and product development. When I sit at a Yankees game, I amuse myself by calculating the per-attendee revenue and cost of services to figure out how much money is being made. When I run a 5K or kayak, my brain lets loose with creative ideas that can either improve my business or create something new from the resources I have.

I feel blessed that the things I love to do are also the things that make money and give me a sense of accomplishment. When I need to rest my brain and body, I do so. But very soon, I go back to doing what I love because I enjoy it and it makes me happy.

Tip: No need to ever tell an entrepreneur to slow down or take time off. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing. It just wastes your time and annoys the pig.


About the author: Kevin Daum concedes that he has a face better suited for radio than television. That’s why he is the Executive Producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. If you haven’t already read his Amazon #1 best-sellers, Video Marketing for Dummies (Wiley) and ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle(Wiley) you’ll likely catch him sharing his thoughts (and limericks) on stage, or on the web. Humor, he says, is the key ingredient for great communication. An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin helps companies communicate in strategic and compelling ways. Visit him at KevinDaum.com or e-mail kevin@roaringvideo.com@awesomeroar Visit Inc.com where this excerpt originally appeared.

New Research Shows Which Social Networks Ideal for Marketers

Which platforms are most relevant to social media marketing right now? Marketers need to know where (and how) they should focus their efforts for maximum ROI.

This article gives you four major research findings from reports tracking trends in social media marketing and the content that works best on each.

#1: People Spend More Time on Visual Networks

It’s impossible to miss the powerful effect of visual content on the social web. It can significantly enhance a brand’s marketing objectives by generating more customer interest and prompting prospects to take desired actions.

As an example of the power of pictures, consider that Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram each gained over 10 million visitors in 2012, thanks to eye-catching content. Numbers from Statista numbers shared on Mediabistro show that users spend more time on Pinterest (1:17 minutes) or Tumblr (1:38 minutes) than on Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google+ combined.

social network use stats from comscore

Visual social networks get more time from users than non-visual networks.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate visual content into your own social media strategy, one of the key things you can do is include one or more high-quality images in all of your blog posts. (Don’t forget to add an ALT attribute in the image properties to help your SEO!)

You can also leverage real-time photo sharing. Customers and followers are used to seeing staged photos that highlight your products and the best parts of your company. Sharing impromptu pictures can be equally compelling when shared in real time.

When you do post product or brand pictures on networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr, allow others to use your images in exchange for a link back to your site.

Don’t forget video! YouTube is the second-largest search engine (after Google, which coincidentally owns YouTube). Videos uploaded to YouTube do very well in searchand boost your site’s ranking. Interviews, Q&As, product demos or tips are popular with a wide audience beyond your current followers.

heygirl meme

Even if you don’t sell tangible products, your brand can still leverage visual content by using memes.

Finally, don’t give up on memes, which are especially popular on Tumblr. For the best success with memes, make sure they’re witty and match your brand and audience.

NPR did this particularly well by modifying the popular Ryan Gosling Hey Girl meme on their Tumblr page.

#2: Google+ Is Best for SEO

Google+ is finding success with social marketers more as an SEO option than a marketing tactic. While it’s doing better than Pinterest and Tumblr, only 14% of marketers are giving high priority to Google+ in 2014. 23% of those surveyed won’t consider the platform at all.

You should still have a presence on Google+, even if you’re only using it for SEO.

socialbakers social network user preference table

Google+ is widely seen as an SEO tool, rather than a compelling social network.

As you cultivate your presence on Google+, the first thing you should do is optimize your Google author profile with a great image. With an eye-catching photo, it won’t matter if you rank third or fourth on the search engine results page. Your image is what gets people’s attention and lends to your authority.

When you post an article on Google+choose your first sentence carefully and use keywords or phrases. That sentence is part of the title tag and can affect your search ranking. As a bonus, one of the great things about Google+ is that you canedit your title and posts anytime. If you find your post isn’t getting the traction you want, try a new title and lead sentence. That’s a lot of control right there!

As always, continue to publish great content on your blog and Google+. While you’re at it, go ahead and +1 your own content. Why not? Google already knows you’re the author anyway. At the very least, it encourages others to +1 your post as well!

#3: Facebook’s Updated News Feed Affects Page Posts

In January 2014, Facebook updated their news feed algorithm to deliver more relevant content to users. Status updates from pages are no longer treated the same as text updates from users’ friends, because most users interacted with friends, not pages.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? You have to mix it up. Since users may not see or engage with your page updates often, make your posts as interesting as you can. Include photos, videos, links (don’t forget to include a preview image), questions, events and offers.

bored office worker istock photo 5984364

Use interesting and fun updates to encourage your fans to engage with you. Image source: iStockPhoto.com.

In all cases, use the story type that best fits with the message you want to tell.

One more thing: If you use Facebook’s Promote feature and your post has an image, that image can’t have more than 20% text.

#4: B2B Marketers Are Most Successful on LinkedIn

Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers say LinkedIn is the most effective platform for them, with Twitter and SlideShare close behind.

comscore and marketing profs social network confidence gap statistics

LinkedIn is the most popular social network for B2B.

How can you take advantage of the most effective social media network? Take advantage of LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform (previously reserved for a few editorially selected influencers like Bill Gates, Martha Stewart and Joe Pulizzi) to all 277 million LinkedIn members. This could be a game-changer.

If you decide to publish on LinkedInknow that posts with the same basic information found on 50 other blogs won’t be successful. LinkedIn users look for well-written personalized insights, professional expertise and interesting industry opinions.

Surveys are helpful to gauge trends in social media; however, it’s even more important to track your own successes and build on them. You can use both options by keeping trends in mind and using them as guides as your marketing strategy and tactics evolve.

What do you think? Are the survey results above consistent with what you’ve seen in your own social media marketing? Which platforms are working best for you? Please share your successes and experiences in the comment box below.

About the author 

Patricia Redsicker writes research reviews for Social Media Examiner. She helps business owners craft content that sells. Her blog provides healthcare industry content marketing advice. The first version of this story originally appeared on socialmediaexaminer.com