About the author.
My name is Ashraf Ramzy, Narratologist, Business Story Consultant, Coach, Author, Speaker, Founder and CEO of MasterStory®. Some 30 years ago I attained a master’s degree in Narratology, the science and study of Story. Since then I have been quietly putting the power of Story to work for visionary brands, organizations and leaders. And, with great success. During those 30 years, a systematic and effective methodology emerged. One that ensured the successful development of a business narrative with impact. Be it a campaign story, a customer story, a target audience story, a brand story, an organizational story, a corporate story or a masterstory. Building further on that methodology I developed StoryMeter®, a diagnostic tool that measures the power of story and its impact on business. In addition I have developed the StoryMaster® program, a 3 day workshop to equip and license you to use the MasterStory® methodology and diagnostic tool. In the weeks, months and years ahead I will post (infrequent) updates on my work, my methodology and my own journey. So make sure to check this page every once in a while. Or subscribe to our newsletter.
Does your Story work? Part 3: How to measure the Impact of Story
This is episode 3 in the technical series “Does your Story work?”. It is intended for professionals who are interested in story and want the know-how and tools to lead a storytelling project: to inspire story development, evaluate story concepts, direct story execution, and objectively measure and monitor the impact of story.
In the previous episode we discussed the hard distinction between the “Telling’ and the “Story”. The “Telling” covers the realm of communication (“how do we tell our story?”), whereas the “Story” covers the realm of meaning and sense-making (“what is our story?”).
In this episode we’ll continue our journey into the working of story and explore the two drivers of meaning. Then we’ll be able to objectively measure the impact of story and start answering the question: does your story work?
Why measure the impact of story?
You cannot not communicate. Everything you say and do and everything you do not say and do not do, tells your audience something about you. Furthermore, your audience does not distinguish between channels and media and sources. All messages about you and from you add up and cluster into one big story. That story plays out in the theater of the audience’s mind and affects your company and brand. How? Through the choices and decisions, attitudes and behavior informed by that story. So, what is that story and how does it affect your business?
Conversely, all your messages emanate from one source: your story. At least they ought to, if your company and brand are intentional in managing perceptions and shaping public opinion. In that case, you need to know if your story works and how it affects your business.
Character and Plot: the two drivers of story
Story is the selection, organization and transformation of information into meaning. Its two drivers are: “Character” and “Plot”. Before we dive into the specific dynamics and mechanisms of “Character” and “Plot”, which we’ll do next episode, let’s focus first on their specific functions:
- “Character” enables an audience to connect with the story: identification and association.
- “Plot” enables an audience to follow the story towards its end: participation and pursuit.
Audience Engagement, therefore, is the composite result of Identification and Participation.
Both drivers can have a positive or a negative response:
- The positive response to “Character” is identification and association. You recognize yourself in the character of your organization or brand and want to belong to it.
- The negative response is alienation and dissociation, i.e. the opposite of identification and association. You feel alienated and estranged from your company or brand and want to distance yourself.
- The positive response to “Plot” is motivation and participation. You believe in the purpose, goals or strategy and want to participate in the pursuit.
- The negative response to ‘Plot”, is withdrawal and obstruction. You either have no idea of the purpose, goals or strategy; you don’t care about them or even disagree with them.
These two drivers then, produce four quadrants, which form the four scenarios of audience engagement and behavior.
Needless to say that each and every one of these scenarios will play out with more details, nuance and complexity for every organization or brand. The four scenarios are:
Quadrant no. 1: Success Story
This indicates a positive response to both your ‘character’ and your ‘plot’.
This is where you want to be: your audiences love and identify with the character of your organization and brand. Your purpose, the plot of your story, makes them want to follow you to the ends of the earth. Congratulations!
- If this quadrant is measured under employees, you have an engaged, enthusiastic, committed and ambitious culture of employees with their eyes on the ball and their hearts in the game. You have a successful organization and a winning team of mavericks and champions.
- If this quadrant is measured under customers or consumers, you have a satisfied, delighted and loyal clientele who gladly put their trust in you and in what you have to offer.
- Celebrate your success, honor your heroes and raise the bar.
- Never succumb to hubris or become lazy and complacent.
- Stay humble and stay hungry
Quadrant no. 2: B-Movie
This indicates a negative response to your ‘character’ but a positive response to your ‘plot’.
Your audiences see you succeed at the expense of everyone around you. The story is a tale of opportunism and exploitation. Not the best place to be, but not the worst, either. This is fixable through a reevaluation of your identity, re-calibration of your values and renewal of internal and external relationships.
- If this quadrant is measured under employees, you have a fragmented and aggressive culture with employees who benefit from jobs and rewards but who are in a competitive, if not downright adversarial, relationship with coworkers and management. Not much synergy, collaboration or teamwork here.
- If this quadrant is measured under customers or consumers, you have an opportunistic and fickle clientele who will leave you the instant a competitor offers a better deal.
- Reevaluate your identity
- Re-calibrate your values
- Renew or restore internal and external relationships
Quadrant no. 3: Tragedy
This indicates a negative response to both your ‘character’ and your ‘plot’.
Your audience sees you as a disaster waiting to happen. A burning platform. A burning ship. And much like the Titanic, everyone is jumping ship, attempting to escape the catastrophe that lies ahead. This the worst place to be. All there is to do, really, is to go up in flames and rise up from the ashes, like a phoenix.
- If this quadrant is measured under employees, you have a despondent and despairing culture of employees who can’t wait to leave, and who in the meantime just go through the motions and withdraw into their shells.
- If this quadrant is measured under customers or consumers, you are most definitely on a sinking ship.
- Accept defeat
- Go down gracefully, only to rise up from the ashes like a phoenix
- And start anew
Quadrant no. 4: French Film
This indicates a positive response to your ‘character’ but a negative response to your ‘plot’.
Your audience is intensely connected with your organization, but no one is moving an inch. Much like in a French Film, it is like a dimly lit scene, where lovers are staring into each other’s eyes, exchanging meaningful glances, but nothing happens. This is fixable. You can drive action through the reevaluation of your greater purpose and your strategy and through the renewal of boundaries and accountability, goals and objectives.
- If this quadrant is measured under employees, you have a stagnant and complacent culture of mostly satisfied but unambitious employees.
- If this quadrant is measured under customers or consumers, you have a doting clientele, a fan club that loves you but isn’t buying what you are selling.
- Reevaluate your greater purpose and strategy
- Set internal boundaries and impose discipline
StoryMeter® measures the impact of your story
The two drivers, “Character” and “Plot” determine the impact of your story. So, ask yourself: do the “Character” and “Plot” of your company and brand inspire your audiences to care and connect, identify and participate? Does your Story fully engage and involve your audiences?
With StoryMeter® you can find out. StoryMeter® measures the impact of your story on your business; your organization and your brand. We can run the survey among employees and among your customers. Its findings, especially from the gap-analysis, provide clear directions for strategy development.
Go check it out now! We have a free demo up and running on www.storymeter.com. That demo is for individual use only but if you are interested in a large scale survey among your employees or customers please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned! In the next episode we’ll take a closer look at the dynamics and mechanisms of “Character” and “Plot”.