The human mind organises and collects the information it wants to make sense of in a certain way. People retain 70% of information via story vs 5-10% of information conveyed via statistics (and yes I see the immediate irony in my sentence!). Many a theory exists around the natural structure of stories that engage people.

According to Joseph Campbell, who thought up the popular concept of the ‘The Hero’s Journey’ after analysing hundreds of stories and myths through history, the natural ‘Hero’s Journey’ structure is a concept that a large number of stories follow. The concept has stood the test of time and been passed naturally down from generation to generation.

However, while stories were shared by ancestors when sitting around the fire, modern media and social media has brought with it a plethora of platforms to share the stories that we tell.  It is also important for the story structure to evolve, adapt and fit current needs. Brands in particular have now evolved to make lots of content available on these various channels, but getting the brand information across to the consumer in a form that they can engage with and remember requires the right balance of storytelling vs brand messaging.

An H+K colleague, digital strategist Gary Goldhammer, decided to track this evolution and analysed a number of successful brand storytelling efforts. In the process, he founded the Hero’s Journey for the post-modern media age. Without going into too much detail (you can find out more in Gary’s blog), the four key aspects in the structure of brand storytelling journey are:

·       Universal truth – the story begins with a common frame of reference that everyone can identify with or relate to (usually transcending culture or language).

·       Emotional hero – one of the most important elements in the story is emotion, and it is even more important to get the balance of emotion vs ‘messaging’ right. Emotion is the raw material that paves the story’s path and the emotional hero is the path that we follow with the story. This does not have to be a person, but can also be embodied by a brand or circumstance.

·       Twist of fate – this is where the story takes a turn for the unexpected, and changes the direction of the narrative. What we thought initially is no longer true, keeping the audience engaged with surprise

·       Transformation – The conclusion of the story will see the emotional hero changed from how they previously were, and a new universal truth is revealed. This can come in the form of a call to action, or a reminder to do things in a different way.

These elements brought together can build a powerful, memorable story for a brand, allowing them to connect and engage with consumers in a manner that is recognisable to them.

Healthcare brands and organisations in particular are well placed to take advantage of this structure to tell stories. Humans have a natural instinct to protect themselves, their loved ones and their families. When human safety is put in jeopardy, it brings with it a whole range of human emotions. The nature of the healthcare sector is such that emotion is dealt with on a daily basis, and harnessing this emotion can be a powerful tool to connect with your audience, with the potential to bring about change in behaviour that could lead to better health for individuals and societies.

I wanted to leave you with two examples of corporate healthcare videos that successfully follow this structure, and in doing so provide a strong emotional story along with presenting a call to action.

The first is essentially a call for change from St Johns Ambulance. Without spoiling the story, the surprise and twist of fate at the end successfully brings about a call to change that people aren’t going to easily forget.

The second is a video from GE health, following the hero’s journey for brands to tell a story of how GE is pushing boundaries in disease research.

Fire With Fire | Ross Kauffman from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Rizwan Dasu is senior account executive at Hill + Knowlton Strategies.