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How to Craft Your Origin Story
[Workflow + Template]

Dec 01, 2022

Read time: 4.5 minutes

In today’s issue, I’m going to show you how to use your origin story to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

Here’s how to get started step-by-step:

Step 1: Decide the plot of your story

99% of stories ever told by mankind follow the same 7 plots. They’re tried, proven, and have stood the test of time.  

So instead of reinventing the wheel, it makes sense to unfold your story using one of these plots. 

For business purposes, we can eliminate comedy and tragedy, which leaves us with 5 eligible plots to choose from:

They are:

  • Rags to riches
  • Rebirth
  • Overcoming the monster
  • The quest
  • Voyage and return 

Check out a detailed explanation of each plot + business examples here.)

Let’s use the quest as our example today.

Step 2: Collect the ingredients to craft your story

All of these plots are variations of the Hero’s journey. But the quest is probably the most classic example. 

So let’s look at what we need to craft our hero’s journey:

1. A hero (this is the character of your story)

For most business stories, this will be your customer. But for the origin story, it’s you.

2. Wants something (this is the plot)

In a quest-type story, the hero wants to improve the status quo or achieve a better outcome. 

So think about what you set out to achieve with your business. What gaps does it fill in the marketplace? This is your plot. In other words, what happens in the story.

3. For a noble reason (this is the story theme)

In business, your story theme is your core driver. Why did you set out on your quest? How do you want to improve humanity? 

You don’t need to talk about this explicitly, but your audience should sense what greater good is driving your actions. 

4. But faces obstacles on the way (this is the conflict)

Don’t be tempted to skimp on conflict and paint a “picture perfect” version of events. Conflict is what gets people invested in your story. It’s what grips them and creates deep emotional resonance. 

So think about the obstacles you’ve faced on your business journey. This can include external struggles, like supply chain issues or relationships gone sour, or internal struggles, like anxiety and self-doubt. 

5. And needs to become a new version of themselves to overcome those obstacles (this is the transformation)

If you thought the story was about what happens, think again. Any powerful story is really about the transformation. It’s about who the hero needs to become to successfully navigate the plot. 

So think about the qualities you had to cultivate, the fears and doubts you had to overcome, the habits you had to adopt, and how you had to transform as a person to get to where you are today.

Step 3: Put it all together with the 3-arc template

Once you’ve collected your story ingredients, I want you to put it all together using the 3-arc story structure template below:

Heading: start in the middle of the story with the inciting incident, e.g:

When I (experienced inciting incident), I knew there had to be a better way

Then circle back to the start of the story:

Introduction: Take the reader back to the time before you started your business. What did the status quo look like? What were the options at the time? What were the gaps in the marketplace? What problems and frustrations did customers face?

In one single bolded crosshead, share how that made you feel

Explain why it’s philosophically wrong for people to feel this way. [E.g. Everyone deserves to understand their taxes.] Now expand on that conflict. Develop it. Explain the predicaments it leads to. How it impacts people who are affected by this pain or problem. (Make it as specific as possible so your customers can relate – because they feel it too.)

(Draw on your notes from point 1 & 2.)

In the next crosshead, share the moment everything changed

Talk about the moment you realised it couldn’t go on this way. That you had to take action. Explain what happened. Where were you? Who were you with?  What thoughts were running through your head? Add specific details like the day of the week, the weather, or the setting of the room to paint a mental picture and transport your reader into the exact moment. 

(Draw on your notes from point 3)

In this crosshead, show the reader what transformation looks like

Describe everything that happened after you took the plunge. The obstacles and conflict you faced and, more importantly, who you had to become to overcome them.

What qualities did you have to cultivate? What personal struggles did you have to overcome? How did that make you feel?

(Draw on your notes from point 4 & 5)

Finally, in this crosshead, tell your reader why this story matters

Why did you want to share it? What can your reader take away from it? What should the reader walk away thinking about differently? How can they learn from your story and apply those learnings to their own life?

Step 4: Get your story out there

Once you’ve got your full story sussed, it’s time to bring it to life across brand touchpoints and channels. 

There are 4 main ways to do that, and you’ll need to tweak your story to fit each format:

1. You tell it in person. 

This works well at speaking or networking events or if you’re pitching to investors. It pays to have a long version and an “elevator pitch” version up your sleeve so you’re prepared for all eventualities

2. You tell it on social media. 

People never get tired of reading stories, so it pays to rewrite your origin story in a few different ways and distribute it across your social media channels from time to time. It also makes for a great pinned or featured post.

3. You tell it on your website.

Every company about page ought to be told as a story, whether it’s in long form (like Patagonia) or in short form (like Pic’s Peanut Butter). 

4. You tell it in PR gigs

Whether it’s on podcasts, advertorials, or any other form of PR, nothing connects with your audience quite like starting off with your origin story. People will immediately lower their defences, and become more receptive to your message.

No matter where or how you tell it, it doesn’t have to be perfect. What matters is that you tell it. And you can always fine-tune it over time. 

Because by using this system, you’ll clearly differentiate your brand in the marketplace with a compelling origin story, and become your customers’ obvious choice. 

That’s it for today – I hope you enjoyed it.

If you want to build brand awareness, authority, and trust, your best bet is to start by nailing your brand story.

Whenever you are ready, there are 2 ways we can help you do that:

  1. Join The Storydriven Marketing Academy: Our FREE course that teaches you how to consistently nail your messaging across all brand assets
  2. Enquire about our Brand Storytelling Workshop: We work with you 1:1 over four guided workshop sessions to craft your storydriven brand messaging & content strategy
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