There are many formulas for storytelling. My favorite one is outlined in Joseph Campbell‘s The Hero’s Journey. Over the years, I’ve consistently used its method to drive messages home to my audiences. It details the hero’s journey, or the monomyth, a template for storytelling that revolves around a central character — the hero — who is taken on a journey of test, tribulation, adventure, learning and victory. The hero’s journey has been the driving narrative force in many successful films. Ever heard of Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potteror Lord of the Rings? That’s the hero’s journey at work.
Here are time-tested steps inspired by the hero’s journey that I frequently use in my business and highly recommend you incorporate into your next big idea.
Identify your main character and their motivation
In any story, whether it’s a documentary film, corporate video or marketing strategy, you need your viewers to have an emotional response. Start by creating the main character, one who exists in a world that’s already defined. Then ideate a call for change that will threaten that world’s order. It’s doesn’t necessarily need to be exciting, but it must command our hero’s attention. That could mean changing the status quo, building something new, challenging a rival or slaying a proverbial dragon. The hero’s initial, default response is typically refusal, which you can choose to build into or exclude from your story. I prefer to select parts of the hero’s-journey format that best suit my narrative and my overall objective.
Meeting the mentor
After a hero has accepted their adventure, they meet their mentor or guide. Conventionally, this could be someone who assists in figuring out the best skill set for slaying the aforementioned dragon. But in the story of your business, it could simply take the form of a skill or lesson learned, whatever or whomever the source.
Slaying the dragon
Now it’s time to conquer the mountain, do the unthinkable and deliver the results you’ve been waiting for. In lieu of real dragons, your obstacle could be a cause waiting to be fulfilled, a group of people waiting to be helped, a change needing to be made, etc. As the writer and director of your success story, it’s your job to articulate the hero’s narrative and mission.
Return to a new normal
After slaying the dragon, i.e. accomplishing one’s mission, the hero returns to a world that has transformed. In most cases, this will be a better world — a new normal.
There is ample correlation between what the world has been going through over the last year and the hero’s journey. There have been so many people who have risen to the challenge that this pandemic has posed, stood up to help others or went above and beyond what they expected they were capable of. There are countless stories and examples of the hero’s journey in everyday life.
As a storyteller in business, you must find the formula behind your message, and then add the relevant parts that make it resonate. You have to create empathy and help audiences identify with your story for it to be accepted and embraced. I am always trying to incorporate the hero’s journey into how I market my company, and so should you.