XTC 8/19: Viral Storytelling—Mythic Models for Audience Engagement Part IV: “Enter the Hero”


In Chapters 1 through 3 of our ongoing Viral Storytelling series, we examined how new changes and challenges in business and technology demand a shift in thinking—a new way of looking at the world’s problems and how we solve them. This new perspective is what sets thought leaders apart, creating the critical backdrop against which the hero can emerge. And that’s when we introduce our mission, our vision, and our value proposition in “Chapter 4: Enter the Hero”.

Without Chapters 1 through 3, Chapter 4 doesn’t work. Without a setting, a challenge or a quest, the hero isn’t relevant. And without understanding the world of our audience and what they’re wrestling with, things like our own value proposition and differentiation end up feeling more like a car chase that’s been tacked onto a movie rather than a core component of a compelling narrative.

But one of the most important decisions to make when it comes to Chapter 4 is this: Who is the real hero of the story? Is that us? Or do we play some other role? In some cases it makes more sense for us as storytellers to position our customers as the hero in the story. Sometimes the technology itself is the hero, especially in the case of a ubiquitous protocol, open standard or platform play. And at other times, it’s not any one company but an entire ecosystem of partners who are the hero. In those cases, a technology company plays the role of the ally behind the scenes supporting the customers, technologies and partners that move the industry forward.

The other aspect of Chapter 4 to get right is to make sure the hero—whether that’s us or somebody else—is a living example of the new perspective we called out in Chapter 3. So if the shift in thinking has to do with addressing both near- and long-term pain points, then this must become part of the hero’s persona. This means we have to do more than a cut-and-paste of our own mission statement. We have to contextualize why we matter and what role we play. Otherwise, we could be the wrong hero showing up in the wrong story. It would be like having Wolverine show up in the middle of a Sherlock Holmes mystery: great skills, nice value-add, but a little out of place.

The last consideration in Chapter 4 is to think through the benefit statements you want to include. Product benefits don’t generally belong in a high-level narrative. Chapter 4 should look at the benefits of your company being involved in the story, not just the benefits of people using your offering. Think of it this way: product messaging answers the question of why people should buy a product. Chapter 4 and a corporate message answer the question of why they should buy that product from you. And it should answer the even broader question of what your role is in the industry—and in your industry’s quest, overall.

There is, of course, another option to dictating benefit statements. You could always avoid the pain of guessing and simply crowdsource the benefit statement in the form of a viral question at the end of your narrative. How cool would that be? And how much more could you accomplish as a storyteller if you took that approach?

That’s the topic for the next installment in our viral storytelling series … The Viral Question.

XTC (Examining the Change) is an ongoing series where B&O CEO Josh Reynolds examines the intersection of technology, storytelling and leadership.