Brand Storytelling & Business Story Library
How many of these resources have you watched or read to advance your brand and business storytelling?
Here are many of the storytelling sources that have inspired and informed the creation of our Story Cycle story strategy system. I hope you will find them individually useful as you craft and tell compelling stories to advance your personal and professional missions further, faster.
This first collection of books, videos and articles explore the universal story structure of the Hero’s Journey or Monomyth, as defined by American Mythologist Joseph Campbell. You can use it to humanize your brand, connect with your customers in your B2B marketing communications, and drive sales growth for your professional services firm like never before.
Disclosure: Some items below are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase through these links.
With Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell
This book features the interview from the renown six-part PBS TV series by the same name, and is the most accessible description of Campbell’s work deciphering the Hero’s Journey, or what he called the Monomyth. The Hero’s Journey is the inspiration behind the Story Cycle brand authoring process.
For a quick and entertaining exploration of the Hero’s Journey, watch this TEDEd video. The, listen to its creator, Matthew Winkler on my Business of Story podcast.
Screenwriter and director George Lucas used the Hero’s Journey as a template for his first Star Wars movie. With the launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Guy Raz on the NPR TED Radio Hour explores the blueprint of the Hero’s Journey with stories of how it shows up in our lives. This is a fun and enlightening podcast that once you hear it, you will start seeing the Hero’s Journey appear all around you.
By Blake Snyder
In Save the Cat, the most successful screenwriter of the 1980’s, Blake Snyder, describes the 15 beats of all great movies, which is his version of the Hero’s Journey. I used Snyder’s beat sheet, before I created the Story Cycle, in several client projects to outline, author and activate brand stories. I figure, if it works for Hollywood to connect and move audiences, it will work in business to engage customers.
By Blake Snyder
In Snyder’s second book, Save the Cat Goes to the Movies, he outlines the 15 beats in more than 40 movies, which you can watch as you follow along with the book to see his approach to the Hero’s Journey in action. Many people have wondered if this would ruin movies for them in the future. I have found studying this process makes the movie-going experience even richer as you gain an insight into how the stories come together that will help you structure your business stories.
What Pixar knows about storytelling that you can use in your business stories. (Caution: Stanton tells a rather off-color joke at the beginning, but the rest is definitely PG-13).
The Intersection of Storytelling and Neuroscience
The next set of resources explores how humans are hardwired to be meaning-making machines through the irresistible power of storytelling.
By Daniel Pink
This book opened my mind to why storytelling and becoming a captivating storyteller is more important now than ever. Pink declares that creators, empathizers and pattern recognizers in the form of artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers and big picture thinkers will reap society’s richest rewards in the rise of our Conceptual Age.
By Jonathan Gottschall – Click to hear Jonathan on the Business of Story podcast
When people say storytelling is just a gimmick, especially in business, I point them to this wonderful book. Gottschall reveals how stories are a uniquely human experience as our minds yield helplessly to the suction of story to make sense out of the chaos around us. This is important in B2B marketing, because stories about our service offering are vastly more potent than bludgeoning our audiences to death with features and benefits content.
Additional reading from Gottschall: From Fast Company magazine: Why Storytelling is the Ultimate Weapon
By Malcolm Gladwell
To me, Blink is about how our mind instantaneously makes up stories. This is important for business storytellers because we all have to make sure our stories are crystal clear, otherwise our audiences will make up their own stories about us and our brands. This scintillating read dives the reader deep into the inner reaches of our consciousness and helps us understand how our brains really work in the office, classroom, kitchen, and bedroom.
By Winifred Gallagher
How do you draw attention to your brand stories in today’s over-communicated world? RAPT provides insights on how our mind responds to positive and negative stimuli and how you can build better stories that cut through the cacophony of communication we’re all up against.
By Paul Zak – Click to hear Paul on the Business of Story podcast
When you tell a good story, you change the chemistry in your audience’s brain. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak discovered the neurotransmitter oxytocin that, when released, helps build trustworthiness between an audience and the storyteller. Besides sex, hugs and kisses, which aren’t typically appropriate in the boardroom, it turns out that telling stories is the next best way to excite oxytocin in your subjects.
Watch this short video from The Future of Storytelling on what Zak found in building empathy through neurochemistry and the dramatic arc of storytelling. If you would like to examine how Zak uses these storytelling techniques in his TEDTalk, read my review.
By Robert Cialdini
This is a fascinating book on the six proven ways to get a person to “Yes, I’ll buy it.” It works in business storytelling because it outlines the six basic kinds of situational stories you need to know how to tell and live authentically: Reciprocity, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority and Scarcity. This book is the sum of universal story structure + neuroscience + salesmanship. I tested his methods while enduring a Hawaiian timeshare sales presentation, and here’s what I found.
By Jonathan Haidt
The Righteous Mind showed me what kinds of stories to tell depending which of the six moral foundations my audience holds dear. This book provides you with a marvelous insight into the liberal and conservation mindsets as determined by their moral codes. SO much of our work is about showing you how to tell stories. Haidt’s book helps you understand which stories to tell.
Storytelling in Business
The next resources are all about how to use storytelling in your B2B marketing to drive employee engagement, sales growth and create brand evangelists through the stories you tell and live.
If there is one article on business storytelling that I send more than any other, it is legendary screenwriting coach Robert McKee’s interview in the Harvard Business Review: Storytelling That Moves People. This is where you can see how smart business leaders and content marketers are borrowing from Hollywood to create business stories to grow their professional services firms. Click to hear Robert McKee’s episode on the Business of Story podcast.
By Shawn Callahan – Click to hear Shawn on the Business of Story Podcast
How good are you at spotting, capturing and turning stories loose in your organization? Putting Stories to Work shows you how to become an excellent oral storyteller. It is the foundation for the Storytelling for Leaders six-month deliberate practice program we offer. I’m honored to be a certified trainer and coach for Shawn’s proven program, produced by his company Anecdote.
By Jonah Sachs – Click to hear Jonah on the Business of Story podcast
One of the first books I read that combined the Hero’s Journey with business is Winning the Story Wars. Jonah Sachs illustrates how we all are traversing versions of our own Hero’s Journey and how this story fractal plays a part in our businesses and organizations. Business storytelling helps brands empower their customers. And when businesses live into the promises they make in their stories, they create brand evangelists.
By Peter Guber –
As CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, and co-owner of the NBA Golden State Warriors and the L.A. Dodgers, Guber knows a thing or two about storytelling in business. He shares his wisdom through the stories of his own wins and losses in trying to move people to action. He says we’re all in the “emotional transportation business,” and this book underscores the importance of using the correct story at the right time.
By Annette Simmons – Click to hear Annette on the Business of Story podcast
The Story Factor is required reading in my Executive Masters of Sustainability Leadership communications course at Arizona State University because it is such a great primer on the personal stories you need to know how to tell to build rapport with your audiences. If you find yourself presenting a lot, keep this book handy; it’s such a great guide.
By Janis Forman
Storytelling in Business is also assigned reading in my ASU course because it features four insightful case studies of business storytelling in mega brands, including Schering-Plough, Chevron, FedEx and Philips. This is your book if you work in large organizations where change seems to take forever. Use some of the brand storytelling tips Forman shares here, and you just might be surprised how quickly you can nudge things along.
By Seth Godin
What marketing storytelling library would be complete without a reference or two to marketing guru Seth Godin? All Marketers Tell Stories, as well as Purple Cow, remain my two top picks of his work in brand storytelling. They standout for their marketing fun and brand story nonsense.
The Mechanics that Make Powerful Brand and Business Storytelling
There are many entertaining books to read about how you actually create the stories you want to share. Here are a few of my favorites; the resources that have made me a stronger presenter, brand story strategist and content marketer in my marketing consulting.
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between
By Lee Gutkind – Click to hear Lee on the Business of Story podcast
One of the best insights I took from You Can’t Make This Stuff Up is how business leaders and communicators must think, write and present in scenes. Gutkind has written this book as a guide so you can jump around depending on your story need, and it delivers on its core mission of helping you deliver true stories well told.
Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
By Lisa Cron – Click to hear Lisa on the Business of Story podcast
Lisa taught me that we can go weeks without eating, days without drinking, but only about 35 seconds without making meaning out of something around us. Even if you’re not planning to write the great American novel, Wired for Story is the entertaining writer’s manual that I reference often.
By Randy Olson – Click to hear Randy on the Business of Story podcast
Connection, written by a Harvard Ph.D/USC Film School Grad who was storytelling was influenced by Cartmen from South Park, taught me that the foundation to every story is something called the And, But and Therefore statement. It is so simple, and yet so essential to crafting a powerful story, that I realized Lincoln innately used the structure in his Gettysburg Address. The ABT is the DNA of story.
By Randy Olson – Click to hear Randy on the Business of Story podcast
In Olson’s third book, Houston, We Have a Narrative, he delves deeper into the And, But and Therefore structure to help scientists communicate in story, versus and, and, and narrative that become a data dump. Both of these books underscore to me the importance of always crafting an ABT statement before I create any story. It is simply that foundational to business storytelling.
By Robert McKee – Click to hear Robert on the Business of Story podcast.
If you’ve got a hardcore story academic inside of you, and you want to know the intricacies of story structure, then McKee’s seminal screenwriting book is for you. Or, like me, you can attend his legendary four-day screenwriting course in Hollywood. Either way, you will emerge from a master course on storytelling.
By James Geary
We utter about one metaphor for every 25 words or about six metaphors per minute. Metaphors are the rivets that strengthen a story. If you’re curious about the roles metaphors play in our stories and in our lives, then this book is for you. A properly placed metaphor is like the hypnotist’s watch that transfixes our minds on the subject at hand. (How many metaphors were used in the above description?)
Storytelling in Your Content Marketing
Smart brands have evolved from promoters of stuff to publishers of meaningful content that empower consumers. Here are a few resources to help you become a stronger storyteller in your business’ content marketing.
By Gary Vaynerchuk
Given the massive change and proliferation in social media platforms, story context matters more than ever. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook outlines the kinds of high-quality stories you need tell and how to tell them on specific social media platforms and mobile devices—stories tailor-made for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and more.
By Bryan Adams – Click to hear Bryan on the Business of Story podcast.
Getting Goosebumps is a practical brand storytelling guide that provides the understanding, ideas and tools you need to develop a digital inbound marketing story strategy that works. Whether you’re a digital marketing novice or a content marketing ninja, you’ll benefit from this step-by-step philosophy and framework to make your online presence all tingly.
By Keith Quesenberry – Click to hear Keith on the Business of Story podcast.
Keith did a really cool study on the five proven elements of storytelling in Super Bowl commercials and has recently published his latest book, Social Media Strategy. This is another exceptional guide on how to connect with your prospects through the stories you tell in your digital marketing.
By Ardath Albee – Click to hear Ardath on the Business of Story podcast.
Online storytelling is about knowing your audience in a godlike way. Like an FBI agent profiles a serial killer, we need to create audience personas to create serial customers. Digital Relevance teaches the basics of creating insightful customer personas and how to connect with them through the stories you share to grow your professional services firm.