How George Lucas Would Write The Story Of Your Company

by 7 07/05/2012

Good stories sell.

If you look at your website analytics it will likely prove it.  You will find that one of the most visited pages on your website is your “About” page or its equivalent.

In fact, if you are able to track it, you will likely find that many of your buyers visit your About page just before they make a purchase, a donation or become a subscriber.  Or, you may find that many website visitors exit from your “About” page.

They want to know who they are dealing with.  They want to know your story.

Often, if your story is good, they buy.  If not, they move on.

A Proven Method For Telling A Story

It turns out that many of the timeless stories we pass on from generation to generation have some things in common.

These are the kind of stories that spread like good peanut butter.  They rivet people to their chair and compel people to retell them.

On the surface these stories don’t seem to have anything in common.  And yet they all use the same formula.

If you want to go old school, the stories of all of the following contain the principles we are going to cover in this article:

  • Prometheus
  • Jesus Christ
  • Siddharta Gautama (Buddha)

NOTE:  This is not a religious discussion, whether these are fiction or non-fiction stories is irrelevant to this discussion.

If you want some pop culture, try:

  • Star Wars
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Shrek

All of these stories have the same components.

It is called, The Hero’s Journey.  And it is a powerful model for telling your story on the “About” page and elsewhere.

I’m not going to go into a tremendous amount of depth in this article because it is not needed to create a compelling story about you or your company.  If you are going to write the next great novel or screenplay, you might want to read this book that analyzes the concepts of The Hero’s Journey.

For our purpose, let’s look at the three main components with examples from the epic movies Star Wars (yes, I am a Star Wars geek and also partial to DC Comics)

Stage 1: Departure

Your story begins by explaining how it once was.

The difficulties of where you came from.  The mundane or troubling circumstances you were presented with.

You somehow knew something had to change.  And something caused you to make that change.  To set off on your journey.

To say that Star Wars was a blockbuster hit is an understatement.  Star Wars has become a deeply engrained story in our culture.  The Star Wars franchise is worth an estimated $30 billion dollars and it is the wonderful story that is told that is so compelling.

At the beginning of Episode 4 ( the story of Luke Skywalker) Luke finds himself in a mundane situation.  Trapped on his home planet, seemingly destined to become a farmer.  But then the war between the rebels and the Empire comes to his front door.  His aunt and uncle are murdered by the empire as they search for R2D2.

The journey is often undertaken with the help of a mentor.

Luke was ready for his journey and accepted a challenge by leaving his home planet to join the war.  He did so with the help of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

How to apply this:

We all have a story like this.  A company is generally started because of a set of circumstances.  What was the catalyst for your company?  What adventure did you set out on when the company started?  Who helped you?

Stage 2: Initiation

In order to get what you want you have had to overcome barriers and endure hardship. You solved problems and likely did battle with the enemy.

In some cases, you won and in others you lost.

Again, often in this stage you will experience help from a mentor.

Toward the end of the first film, Luke Skywalker experiences the loss of his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan.  Cut down in a light saber battle with Darth Vader.  Luke experiences the power of the dark side of the Force and eventuall (in the sequel to the first film) does battle with his nemesis (and father) Darth Vader.

But Luke also experiences victory in the second film.  He meets Yoda, who trains him to be a Jedi and allows him to reach his goal.

How to apply this:

A company or entrepreneur that is successful has undoubtedly experienced and overcome problems.  What were the barriers that your company overcame?  How did you overcome them?  Who or what helped you?

Stage 3: Return

When the journey is complete and the quest is successful, the hero returns to share his enlightenment and power with the rest of the world.

The hero might require the help of others to make his return as well.

When the hero returns, the world becomes a better place because of it.  The hero brings something back from the journey that makes a difference.

In the third movie, Return of the Jedi (the title of the movie itself indicates its place in The Hero’s Journey) Luke arrives to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hut and eventually destroy the empire.  He receives assistance from his mentors Yoda and Obi-Wan.

His final confrontation with his enemies signals the end of his journey.

How to apply this:

Every company or entrepreneur has something of value or they wouldn’t be in business.  However, that value goes beyond the products and services that it offers.  In the end, this is about people doing business with people.

What have you brought back from your journey that is benefiting the rest of us?  Who helped you?

Learn from Hollywood

Disney Pixar story artist Emma Coats wrote a blog post that compiled a number of guidelines their team uses when creating compelling stories.

Appropriate to this article about telling your own story is the following fill-in-the-blank sentence from the Disney Pixar blog:

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

Fill in the blanks in that sentence and you have yourself a compelling story.  A story that compels people to buy from you.  A story they will identify with and tell to their friends and family.  A story that will create advocates for your company.

Flesh out the details of your story and add it to your About page and elsewhere.  Do that, and you will have a story that would make George Lucas smile.

About 

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.

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7 COMMENTS

Brennan

Well, anything with “Star Wars” or an equivalent thereof (ie. “George Lucas”) will have me flipping pages or scrolling down to read the article. Great write up on the Hero’s Journey and how SW owned it. As a writer and screenwriter, I am constantly reminded of this journey because it is ingrained in every good, compelling story I (attempt) to keyboard punch – real or fictional.

July 5, 2012 Reply

Don Campbell

I really enjoyed this article Russ. Thanks for this great breakdown of how to make a story for a company.

I love stories and I’ve been studying what makes a good one. A great book I’ve found that examines story structure in detail is called Resonate by Nancy Duarte. It is for building great presentations, but it applies to the whole story concept for anything.

July 6, 2012 Reply

Bash

Great article Russ. Seems like quite a bit to weave into a concise about us page tho. Are there any examples from live web properties that you think embody some or all of the principles you encourage?

July 19, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Have a look at mine Bash – http://www.tinyandmighty.com/about — in the second section (after I identify my market) I talk a bit about my hero’s journey. You don’t have to incorporate all of these things into your story but pick and choose.

    July 20, 2012 Reply


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