Creating and telling a story that makes a difference is hard work!

Yes, it is part art and science, but it must be centered on a simple and strategic model so that “storytelling” becomes not only scalable, but also achievable regardless of location or budget size (or lack of it).

This point became abundantly clear via our work with the U.S. State Department, where we serve as professors for the U.S. Marketing College. Started in 2008 with a call to Kip Knight, the 20+ professors who joined to teach this course, now in its 11th year, faced a fundamental and intriguing issue.

Our “students” are unique. Yes, they work throughout our state department and government to share our story or help others in doing the same. That is straightforward. But their skills are off the charts. They often speak five languages, many quite difficult. They have often lived in half a dozen places that are not exactly vacation destinations. They deal with issues that we read about in the paper every day. They are patriots who care deeply about improving or safeguarding our world. They are also usually missing classic training in both communications and marketing.

Our professors are all executives who have worked as chief communication officers, chief marketing officers and even as presidents and CEOs of the top brands and agencies in the world, ranging from P&G to Dell to E-Bay to Farmers Insurance to Mattel and more.

This mashup of talent, both teaching and in the audience, led us to create a simple model, so that anyone anywhere can create and tell an effective story. We refer to it as the ABCDE Model.

So, eleven years later, we decided to write a book to explain how it works. Here are the basics of what the model entails.

A is for Audience – we want to know who we are trying to persuade (defined by demographics, behavior, attitudes, psychographics and more). And then, based on consumer research and analysis, what do we know about our target audience that will be helpful in creating a persuasive communication campaign?

B is for Behavioral Objectives – what exactly do we want our target audience to do based on this communication campaign?

C is for Content – What is the “benefit” we receive? What are we promising our target audience will get in return for the behavior we are advocating? Basically, what’s in it for them? Then, what is the “reason to believe”? Why should our target audience believe we can deliver the benefit we are promising them (e.g. endorsement, mechanism of action, ingredients, product/service attributes)? And finally, what is the “tone/character” we need? What is the personality, attitude and look/feel of our message (expressed in three words or less)?

D is for Delivery – We determine what “media” we will use. Which online and offline media channels are we using to get our message out? (e.g. Facebook ads, YouTube videos, print ads, PR campaign, TV commercials and more).   Next, we think of our “message”. What’s the overall message you are going to be delivering to your target audience? Then, is the message “on brand”, meaning does this communication campaign tie into and leverage your overall brand image? Is it “recognizable”, which gets us to ask if the campaign will make it easy for our target audience to quickly identify it with our brand. Is it “simple”? Basically, is our overall message clear and simple enough that the target audience will be able to understand it quickly and easily? And is it “attention grabbing” so that you will get the attention of your target audience?

E is for Evaluation — What metrics are you going to use to evaluate the overall success of this communication campaign? Over what time period?

Our group of professors has worked on some of the most significant campaigns in industry over the years. What we all realized in designing this model is that, like any simple model, everyone initially thinks “oh, I already do that”. In reality, we find that it is way too rare that we follow all five components with discipline. In fact, the “A” and “B” steps are often glossed over in our excitement to get to “C”.

Remember when our parents told us we have to eat our vegetables before we could have desert? They were right. Make sure you finish “A” and “B” before you start creating the next campaign. And do what we do. Print this out and look at the model every time you create a new story or campaign. It’s worth the effort.

Crafting Persuasion will be available July 1, 2019 via in hard cover, Kindle and e-book formats. The authors are Kip Knight, Ed Tazzia and Bob Pearson. A great resource list can be found at Bob is strategic advisor with W2O Group and an investor/advisor to a range of media/software/technology firms.