When it’s time to pull together a compelling strategic IC narrative for your business, where better to look for creative inspiration than the best in the creative business themselves, Pixar?
A narrative is the essential golden thread that helps leaders and communicators construct a compelling story and stay on message throughout the life span of a strategic programme or campaign.
But, if it’s not something you do every day in your communication life, you might need guidance or inspiration next time you’re faced with writing a strategic narrative.
Inspired by Pixar’s 22 golden rules of storytelling, here are some of our top tips to creating a strategic narrative for your business.
Pixar’s golden rule: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: People admire a brand for its honesty and ambition more than its success.
Pixar’s golden rule: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Your audience has a limited attention span. Keep it simple, well-ordered and plain-speaking.
Pixar’s golden rule: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Metaphors can really help explain a situation, but they can overcomplicate things. Only use a metaphor if it fits seamlessly and doesn’t require explanation.
Pixar’s golden rule: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Our business has a heritage of____. But the world/our customers are changing. If we want to be_____, we need to____. That’s why we’re____. And because of that we need you to____.
Pixar’s golden rule: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Simplify. Write a version that’s ten pages long, at first, if you need to. Edit, simplify and sub-edit again. Be ruthless, can you get it down to one or two pages of A4?
Pixar’s golden rule: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal with it?
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Celebrate your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. This helps set an authentic context for change.
Pixar’s golden rule: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: What’s your desired, well-formed outcome? What do you want people to do as a result of reading your narrative? Be clear about this and make sure every sentence contributes to this outcome.
Pixar’s golden rule: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. Do better next time.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Seek feedback, but don’t let too many opinions muddy the clarity for which you aim. Additional context belongs in the supporting communications.
Pixar’s golden rule: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: If you get stuck, change your lens. Try focusing on the risks of not changing, as opposed to the potential benefits of changing.
Pixar’s golden rule: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognise it before you can use it.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Reach out to your network; find examples of other narratives. Look for patterns in the storytelling and think about which parts have the greatest emotional impact on you as a reader. Steal with pride!
Pixar’s golden rule: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Get words down on paper, just make a start! Copy and paste from emails, from your corporate website, from notes from conversations with leaders. Even if it’s scrappy, the longest journey starts with a first step.
Pixar’s golden rule: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: V17, v24, even v30 might top your narrative before you get sign off of the final version. Don’t worry, first cuts are rarely the last and iteration is to be expected.
Pixar’s golden rule: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Borrow the favourite, well-used phrases of your leaders. Speaking in their vernacular (as long as its simple) will help them feel that they own it… and sound authentic to your business.
Pixar’s golden rule: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Why this story? Why now? Not every narrative has a ‘burning’ platform but there’s usually something ‘smouldering’ somewhere, to necessitate doing things differently. Be clear about that.
Pixar’s golden rule: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Don’t be afraid to be emotional. People like to know what their business has learnt from past mistakes. Address errors head on, learn from them, close the chapter and move on – failure is part of success.
Pixar’s golden rule: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against them.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: What’s the political or economic landscape in which you’re operating? What are your customers saying? What are your competitors doing? Give people real life, pragmatic reasons to change.
Pixar’s golden rule: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: No work is ever wasted. Never delete words, always save a new version. A longer, deeper explanation, cut from a previous draft could be gold dust, saving you time later in your communication campaign.
Pixar’s golden rule: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and fussing. Storytelling is testing, not refining.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Sweat the small stuff. Make sure every word is charged with meaning. Compelling narratives are packed with simple but powerful words.
Pixar’s golden rule: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Rose tinting doesn’t wash. Every decision communicated must have an honest, transparent and thought-through rationale behind it. Even the best comms people can’t ‘spin’ the business out of a poor decision.
Pixar’s golden rule: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Practise. Write yourself a narrative for a project even if it never gets communicated in full to your audience. It will help you get a clear grasp of the priority order of your messages.
Pixar’s golden rule: You gotta identify with your situation/characters. You can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Avoid any marketing spiel, jargon or acronyms. The ultimate purpose of a narrative is clarity.
Pixar’s golden rule: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
scarlettabbott’s golden IC nugget: Half-way through the process, try writing your narrative as 5-6 bullet points. This is the essence of your story.
Download your free guide to creating a compelling strategic IC narrative here.