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Matt Bourn
Matt Bourn

I am fascinated by all things to do with the media, writing and publishing.  I have specialised since my degree in communications for the world of media, advertising and technology and written constantly, personally and professionally, during that time.  Twenty years on from graduation, storytelling is everywhere in my life, so through 2014-2016 I am studying an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck to further my understanding of the art of storytelling in this changing world.  I welcome any feedback or comments, my Twitter handle is @MattBourn or send an email to

Storytelling in a Multi-Media World

Today’s storytellers face a very different competitive landscape to writers of previous generations.  Thanks to the dynamic changes taking place in the world of media, not just publishing, there is an explosion of differing ways to tell a story (in its entirety or just select parts).  At the same, there is increasing interest from business as brands to engage with the audiences that are important to them through the stories they are sharing.


The power of stories has an irresistible allure to marketers who want their brand to be the best-known, most effective and first-choice in their sector.  Brands and marketers are bringing a campaign mentality to storytelling.


What I find really interesting in all of this is that the techniques of plotting and storytelling are transferable from brand to author and from author to brand. 


Consider for a moment, David Mitchell’s recent Twitter Story, a book told in 280 Tweets, as a means to build awareness for his latest novel, and the response back from Mashable and their 18 Twitter Short Stories. The same outlet goes even further in this excellent article Modern Authors Delve Into Digital and Visual Storytelling with examples of fantastic immersive behaviour by writers living out their lives as ongoing stories in front of their fans.  The richness of these stories and the way they are being shared is amazing. 


Recently, I attended a very entertaining talk by one of the world's largest brand communications groups, Starcom MediaVest Group, on the foundations of great storytelling in brand advertising campaigns and how to design a campaign structure, a ‘Story House’, which is fit for purpose.  The agency runs campaigns in the UK and internationally for many famous and recognisable brands.


My take was The Story House is a very interesting planning technique to construct a story which has the potential to resonate across a multi-channel media landscape. 


The starting point to building a Story House is to know the story you want to tell before you begin for you will be a liar, to reference John Irving, if you start your campaign story before you know how it ends. He writes:


Know the story before you fall in love with your first sentence. If you don’t know the story before you begin the story, what kind of a storyteller are you? Just an ordinary kind, just a mediocre kind – making it up as you go along, like a common liar.


A simple Story House is then built on four blocks of foundation:

  1. The Character – who is this person, what worries them, what inspires them?
  2. The World – what is the world you are asking people to enter and how will you return them to their own world at the end of the campaign?
  3. The Event – where the shit happens, the aspect of the story that will be solved by the character who we have grown to care about.
  4. The Idea – the question that needs to be considered with the answer ready to land.


The Story House structure has two pillars built on those foundations:

  1. BUT… the story starts out with conventional wisdom until it hits the BUT… and that BUT needs to be a teasing, flirty one which tempts you to want to know more.
  2. SO… which should be sooo conclusive that the story is neatly wrapped up, leading to the next steps (or desired action).


Story Ropes stretch across the two pillars to complete your Story House.  These ropes should be designed with four types of person in mind.  Each of them will seek their own experience of the Campaign Story as they live out their lives in a multi-channel media world:


  1. The monkey, someone who wants to play and get involved, who will pick and choose which rope to play with and when.
  2. The lion, powerfully crossing the story, choosing where to engage and looking for solid, strong evidence wherever they go.
  3. The owl, seeking a birds-eye complete view of the story and inspecting any or every element with a detailed mind.
  4. The horse (or multiple horses) who want to be led gently and will run away if you scare them with the style of the story experience.


The Story House is a thought-provoking plotting technique to consider in a world of multi-channel storytelling where readers (or audiences) can dip in and out of your story however and whenever they want to.


I’ll finish with a recent example of great brand storytelling that I came across on Medium which is well worth checking out.  This article, The Typography of Speed, is a fabulous example of a brand, in this case, BMW, telling a story which plays back beautifully to the values it wants to present.


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