"How did all of this start?"
It's a common question. One that I get asked in almost every interview–whether I'm conducting the interview or on the other end.
How you answer that question determines how much somebody connects with your brand. If the story is rather dull and meandering, their connection goes way down. Yet if it inspires them, they could become one of your greatest advocates.
Over the next several weeks, we're going to do a series of posts that looks at the 7 Types of Stories and breaks down each one in great detail. Up first–The Origin Story.
The origin story–the story of how a business, idea, product, or service came to be–is one of the most common, and most powerful, types of stories we can tell.
It's a story that every storyteller should be familiar with because many of your clients can benefit from having a strong origin story created for them. And you need to be able to tell your own origin story to really build trust and create a connection to your own brand.
Why Tell An Origin Story?
Well, a few reasons. First off, there are way too many choices out there. Buying anything from Ketchup to getting your lawn mowed presents you with dozens of different options. Nearly every option will have their own marketing spin and it is hard to know what you can trust.
An Origin Story shares how something came to life, and in doing so, it lets the audience connect with the people behind the something. This type of story builds trust, confidence, and an emotional connection to the brand.
The Origin Story is less about teaching or imparting knowledge, and much more about taking the audience on an inspiring journey that leads the audience to believe in the people.
A powerful facet of the Origin Story is that nobody can take yours.
While we might share a similar vision, other companies can have a similar impact, and we may have the same values–how you brought something to life has much more originality to it. And that originality is a powerful way for the company to stand out and create a unique connection.
Check out the origin story of Muse and consider how it affects how you feel about what we're trying to do.
How To Tell An Origin Story?
While there are different types of stories, there is a common structure within all of them. What really changes is where you look for the elements.
For the Origin Story, that means taking a good hard look at where the idea for the business came from. Trying to identify the moments that led to the idea, and the main steps in bringing it to life.
To start creating an Origin Story, look to find the early conflict, the problem, that you or the founder ran into.
Remember, businesses and nonprofits exist to solve a problem.
In Muse's origin story, that conflict was working in a factory creating something that had no purpose.
The key to this type of story, is to try to find a moment when the founder first ran into that problem. Whereas most people simply keep moving and ignored the problem, this founder decided things had to change.
After running into the conflict, look for the first big action the founder took to try and find a solution. You don't want this to be the actual solution–we need a journey and to build anticipation before we reveal the solution. After running into the conflict, the next moment is some major action that signifies wanting to find a solution.
In the story we shared above, the next plot point following the conflict was going to University to explore Psychology.
After that first major action, you're into the journey of the story. This is where you want 2-3 major milestones that happened along the way. Setbacks or hurdles are great journey points as they show how hard the founder was willing to work to find a solution. And the more they want it, the more we want it for them–our connection deepens.
In Muse's origin story, there are several journey points. The first is when my roommate came in and asked for help to shoot a wedding. And then there are the three phone calls–Canon, the NFL and CBS. That then leads into workshops and the biggest question people had, which was about story.
Notice how in this origin story there are several journey points and therefore we move through them rather quickly. We could have taken you to the sidelines of the first Superbowl and how that experience felt, but it would make the journey too long.
As you build out the journey, look for the logical milestones that connect the early conflict to the solution that is arrived at. Too few journey points and the solution feels too easy. Too many journey points and the audience can get bored. You'll often want to try testing out different versions of the story to see which journey is just right.
The last part of the Origin Story is the resolution or the solution that the founder comes to. When you're creating this type of story, you'll be starting with an understanding of what was created, so it often works well to work backward from there to find the conflict, initiation, and journey.
Here's a quick recap of the main plot points of the Origin Story:
- The Conflict–when the founder first runs into the problem.
- The Initiaion–one of the first major actions taken by the founder to find a solution.
- The Journey–a collection of milestones that happened in the process of the founder seeking a solution.
- The Resolution–the actual solution that the founder arrives at, the business, product, service, or idea that was born.
Remember that the Origin Story makes an excellent film, but it also is perfect inside talks, when speaking to media, and for your website in the form of copy.
If you're a filmmaker, be sure to take the time to develop your own Origin Story so that the next time a client asks you how you got into this, you can leave them inspired and connected.