Park Howell

#400: Learn From My 10-Year Journey With The ABTs of Storytelling

#400: Learn From My 10-Year Journey With The ABTs of Storytelling

In 1995, I opened our ad agency Park&Co in Phoenix, Arizona. Back then, we focused on traditional advertising methods including TV, radio, print, outdoor, direct mail, public relations and events.

Our advertising clients owned the influence of mass media.

But then the masses became the media with the onset of the internet, e-commerce and social media. All of a sudden it seemed that our traditional approaches to branding, advertising, marketing and sales no longer worked the way they had.  Storytelling started to become a buzzword in our world.

So I went in search of an answer. I wondered what Hollywood knew about effective storytelling that we could use in business. That’s when I learned about Joseph Campbell’s monomyth or Hero’s Journey.

The Hero’s Journey struck me as an amazing storytelling framework to craft more compelling brand narratives. I mapped it to business and created the 10-step Story Cycle System™.  We’ve used the Story Cycle System ™ to grow brands like Adelante Healthcare by more than 600 percent. The Story Cycle is a terrific guide for long-form communications and presentations. You can see it in action in my TEDx Talk.

That’s why I wrote Brand Bewtichery: How to Wield the Story Cycle System to Craft Spellbinding Stories for Your Brand, to help you easily use this proven storytelling framework for your communications.

But these multi-step storytelling processes can be complicated. People often get lost along the 17-step Hero’s Journey. Blake Snyder’s 15 Beats to Storytelling outlined in his famous book Save the Cat is another powerful framework but it can bite you.

The eight-step PIXAR way is pretty cool but let’s face it, you’re a business communicator, not a screenwriter.

I’ve used all of these storytelling frameworks in business and have found that they all are built upon the foundation of just three words.


I’ve learned that the ABT is the DNA of storytelling because it uses the three forces of story which include agreement, contradiction and consequence. Our pattern-seeking, cause-and-effect, decision-making, primal, limbic buying brain LOVES this three-step approach to communication because the ABT makes it easy to illustrate the meaning in the message.

Dr. Randy Olson revealed the ABT in 2013 in his second book, Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking. The ABT to me was like the Holy Grail of brand messaging because it enables you to simplify complex communications so that your messages land right the first time, every time.

Over the past decade, Randy and I have worked with other communications scholars in almost every walk of life refining the ABT to be used across all industries. We even co-authored The Narrative  Gym for Business, a crisp 75-page guide to keep by your side as you grow as a more confident and compelling communicator by using the ABT agile narrative framework in your messaging.

The problem/solution dynamic of the ABT works because we Homo sapiens storytelling apes are meaning-making machines. If we don’t have a problem to solve or are navigating some sort of change (isn’t that what leadership, branding, sales and marketing communications is really all about?) then we have little interest in your story.

On today’s show, you’ll hear from the ABT experts who have graced our podcast over the past 50 episodes so that you too can learn how to apply the ABT in all of your communications.

My goal is to help you excel through the stories you tell just like I have by learning the ABT, growing my narrative intuition, and then using the longer story forms to craft and tell compelling stories that sell.

I hope you enjoy this special 400th-anniversary edition of The Business of Story podcast.

Discussed in this episode:

  1. How to leverage the three forces of storytelling: agreement, contradiction and consequence.
  2. Why you need to name, frame and claim the problem/solution dynamic in all of your business storytelling.
  3. How you can use the ABT in all of your messaging


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