How Story Development and Assessment Works

Story Title: 
How Story Development and Assessment Works

In this episode, we’ll describe how we implement a story development and assessment service engagement, which consists of five phases, including conducting interviews of winning sales teams and SMEs, running story analysis across the resulting story data, creating a story architecture and messaging framework from the story analysis, performing a story assessment and update, and finally story implementation.

How Does Story Development and Assessment Work

In this episode, we’ll describe how we implement a story development and assessment engagement, which at a high level consists of five phases:

  1. Interview winning sales teams and subject matter experts to extract the winning story data.
  2. Run story analysis across this story data to derive insights.
  3. Capture these insights into a story architecture that includes the messaging framework.
  4. Assess and improve upon the story.
  5. Implement the story, driving all content implementation from the story architecture and messaging framework.

Given that our underlying purpose is to create a storytelling narrative, we have standardized our storylines around a simplified version of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Our story begins in Act 1 with our hero (the buyer) living in a new world where something has changed, whether or not the buyer truly understands this.

In Act 2, we realize that if the buyer continues doing things the same old way, he will fail. These represent the Why Insights our sellers need to coach their buyers on: why they should stop doing what they are doing today. This represents the first of the four fundamental questions: Why the buyer should care about what the seller has to say.

In Act 3, the seller describes his offering, his “magical” features and capabilities that resolve what’s broken in the buyer’s status quo and offer a brave new world to operate in.

In Act 4, the buyer becomes a hero, as his company receives the seller’s product and the magical, unique value it brings.

Finally, we add the intro and outro. The intro helps to scope the episode’s content and may recap the previous episode, while the outro provides a link to the next episode.

Next, let’s apply this story narrative to our story architecture.

At a high level, our story architecture is organized around answering the four fundamental questions asked by all buying organizations: why, what, who and how. Our task is to segment the answers into episodes that can be told in less than 8 minutes.

Note, the how stories can live on their own because they tell tactical stories about how the what modules are implemented.

Diving deeper into what is contained within each why module, we see three elements that align with Acts 1 and 2 of our storyline:

  • What is the market driver? This includes status quo and what has changed in the market.
  • What is the why insight? In other words, what is broken in the status quo?
  • Why is the status quo broken? This includes the pain points incurred by people continuing to operate in the broken status quo.

Next, we look at the what module, which describes what you do and aligns with Act 3 of our storyline. It’s primarily comprised of three elements:

  • An overall description, which includes the problem it solves
  • The new innovative approach, which is the “magic” that solves what is broken in the status quo
  • The capabilities, features, and resulting benefits received

Next, we review the who module template. At a high level, who modules essentially mimic reference calls, answering questions like:

  • Who is the customer?
  • Why did the customer change from status quo?
  • Which capabilities and features of your product does this customer use and what is the value received?
  • Why did the customer not choose the competition? This provides proof points highlighting potential unique value.

To get to the unique value, we first inventory all benefits derived from the what offerings.

It’s important to note there are well-defined interfaces between all the modules. For instance, the what modules should be in response to the broken status quo described in the why modules. In addition, the who modules provide proof points that the benefits actually have true value to end customers.

Finally, we can prioritize which benefits in our inventory provide the most unique value through a competitive and persona filter. These unique values will then become Act 4 in our story narrative.

Next, I’ll walk through the actual story development and assessment process.

We start by scoping the project. The first step is to identify if this story development will be only for the company wanting to tell its story, or the company with a partner, or only the partner’s story in how it uses the company’s products.

Second, we need to define if we’ll be talking about a solution, product, service, partnership, or the company’s brand.

Third, we’ll decide if we want to further segment the overall story by industry and/or geography.

For example, we did a story development engagement for Cisco that was Cisco + Apple in the US for the healthcare industry.

This scoping then allows us to identify which winning sales teams and subject matter experts to target to gather their stories.

The next step is to conduct 45-minute recorded interviews with the identified sales teams and subject matter experts, during which a standardized set of questions are asked. It’s important to note that the standardized questions map back to what is needed to fill in the story architecture.

In addition, we provide (as a gift) a book on IoT, which is published by PrecisionStory.

Optionally, we can create an internal win slide and story using an agreed-upon template. It’s important to note that we give the interviewees the opportunity to provide feedback on the resulting story to ensure accuracy.

Next, we take all the stories and pass them through story analysis. Think of each question as an API and the story text as the data. We then collect the data from each API to discover the patterns and insights.

Given our data is rich in story text, we carry this text forward into the analysis. The result is a rich set of text to fill in our messaging framework, which will then be used to build our story collateral.

We then build our story architecture from the output of the story analysis, filling in the why, what, and who templates with the current story being told.

This provides us with a Build 01 of your existing story. Here we show a Build 01 of an example customer’s high-level story architecture.

We then build out the messaging framework from the story architecture and story analysis. This includes building out different forms of the positioning statement, along with the value proposition. We also include the why and what modules, along with the story elements and an inventory as to why customers choose your product over the competition.

Finally, full storylines drop out of the story architecture that can be used for creating episodes and writing thought leadership blogs.

With Build 01 of the story architecture and messaging framework, we then go through a phase of assessing the quality of the story. This might involve an in-person workshop. If we feel there are places where the story can improve, we then conduct additional interviews and run this data along with the output from the workshop into the story analysis. The result is a Build02 of the story architecture and messaging framework.

Here is an example of the previous customer’s story architecture after a phase of improving the story.

Once we’re happy with our story architecture and messaging framework, we lock it down as Version 1 and then use this to drive our story implementation.

For example, a number of template scripts are automatically generated from the story architecture, including a 60–90 second trailer, and full why and what episodes. PrecisionStory can refine these scripts for recording, or they can be provided to the assigned star storytellers to use as the basis for their recordings.

Recordings can be done in a number of ways, including highly produced, self-recorded, recorded web conference and audio over slides. These resulting videos form the basis of each episode. We then add in the transcripts to provide the text-version of the story.

We can also create all forms of traditional marketing collateral from the messaging framework, including text-based collateral like 2-pagers, case studies and presentations.

In summary, Precision Storytelling can improve your enterprise storytelling for this mobile world filled with busy professionals by

  • Enabling you to tell your entire story in video
  • Organizing your story in short episodes
  • Telling your story via your star storytellers

While also enabling you to create traditional marketing collateral.

Thank you for your time. If you’re interested in learning more, please drop me an email at

Vince Vasquez, CEO Precision Story
Connect with him on LinkedIn