Storylining is an essential part of a storytelling. It is lining of messages in logical order to make the entire story easy to grasp and understand while using only the relevant messages avoiding unnecessary noise. Every storytelling starts with storylining and one can embed multiple storylines into a single storytelling.
GAME (Goal, Audience, Message, Expression)
GAME is the overall framework and the ‘M’ in GAME is the part where we create our storylines. In summary:
- Goal: in which we establish clear business-level outcomes from our communication. Set SMART goals. Think on a business outcome level — on the tangible results of a desired positioning or proposition — not on a communications level yet. You will tie them together later with your communication objectives and key messaging.
- Audience: in which we define audience and key issues in relation to our goals and set communication objectives. Segment and prioritise your audience. Make sure you understand their issues in relation to your goal. What do they think, feel and do right now? Where do you need them to be? Set communication objectives.
- Message: in which we craft a storyline — the key messages in a logical argument — that will move our audience from ‘A’ to ‘B’.
Now we craft the key messages — in a logical, well structured argument — that will drive our audience through their decision-making journey towards our desired outcome. For now, I suggest using ‘ACCA’ (Awareness, Comprehension, Commitment, Action) as the four steps you will need to guide your audience through — and develop messaging for. It is a great all-purpose model.
These four steps are a hierarchy of communication effects model, which ensures you cover all the behaviour influencing stages: knowing, feeling and doing, which are required to truly persuade an audience (more on the models within this framework at the end of this document).
- Awareness: in which we help our audience become aware of the challenge we are tackling
- Comprehension: in which we help our audience understand the solution we propose
- Commitment: in which we provide the proof that our solution is the right one
- Action: in which we craft a clear call to action that lets our audience know what to do next.
Structuring the messages in a logical way is crucial to get consistency and clarity throughout all four stages. Sorry to say, this is the area in which the majority of communicators fail. We’re great at generating stickies — but not too hot at shaping them into a coherent structure.
Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle is the right tool to use here. To get you started, here’s 10 great lessons on how to structure business communication
- Expression: in which we find the best way to express our messages — that’s storytelling.
With strong storylines in place, and using our key messages as the foundation, we can now focus on how best to bring those messages to life. That is storytelling.The world is not exactly short on storytelling advice, so I will offer just one strong rule of thumb built on the same three elements of behaviour change I mentioned earlier: knowing (cognitive), feeling (affective) and doing (conative).
- Logic: make sure your story makes sense from your audience point of view
- Emotion: make sure your story engages on a human level
- Direction: make sure your audience knows exactly what to do next.
Be clear about your communication purpose before you prepare anything
Lack of clarity around what we want to achieve from each piece of communication leaves us vulnerable to creating a ‘nervous parade of knowledge’ or a ‘kitchen sink’ communication that includes every conceivable detail about a topic, so we can avoid being wrong.
Unfortunately, this guarantees we will be wrong: We won’t put a clear idea forward. Our audience won’t know what we are saying. And if we are asking for something, all we will get is a long list of questions.
1. Separate your broader strategic (what do you want to get out of this) purpose and your specific story purpose (what the audience wants from this)
2. Focus on audience outcomes, not your inputs, when articulating your story purpose – What do I want my audience to know think or do as a result of this specific piece of communication?
Understand what your real audience needs to know
- What do they want from you?
- Do they know much about the topic?
- Are they engaged in it … at all? too much?
- Do they have pre-conceived ideas that support or go against yours?
- Could there be a conflict between your objectives and theirs?
Critical thinking abilities when communicating
Understand the rules of storylining
Hook your audience in with an image or a story that would set up a theme to thread through the rest of the communication.
1. Every communication must provide some background (context, trigger, question)
2. Every communication has one clear overarching governing idea (which answers the question above it in the diagram)
3. Ideas at each level synthesise the ideas below (summarise if they must, but ideally synthesise)4. All ideas must be logically ordered
Trust that they will flush out insights
Circle back to the rules every time you edit your communication