Sometime ago, I was giving a presentation to a group of startup founders, and I was talking about narratives and storytelling. After the presentation, one of the startup founders approached me. He looked a little bit confused and he said, "I don't want to tell a story. I want to tell the truth." To which I replied, "If you don't tell a story I won't know what your truth is." In a world where people increasingly want to know our truth, who want to see through organizations and understand the thoughts and the conversations of the people inside them, knowing how to create engaging narratives is becoming more important than ever. The most engaging narratives are not found in PowerPoint and bullet points. So, what is a narrative?
A narrative is a story. It's a series of connected events. That's why all stories whether it's in Netflix or in a book are told in chapters in episodes. Think about a book. Why did you pick that book up in the bookstore? Well, you look at the cover. You turn it over and look at the back, the blurb as they call it in the industry. That blurb is super important. It defines the reason why you're going to pick that book up and read it. So in the bookstore, you open the book and you start reading a few pages. This process is no different from how people consume podcasts today. They find a podcast on Apple podcast or Spotify. They listen to it and then if you're lucky they subscribe. Now, if you go back to the Gutenberg Printing Press. The book publishing industry is over 500 years old. However podcasting is young and new, and that means they haven't quite learned by trial and error. What works and what doesn't yet. Although in the last couple of years, podcasting models have evolved fast. The most successful podcast today have learnt the best of what works from the world of Netflix, book publishing and music and right at the top of that list of things that work in the world of publishing is narrative.
Remember that last book that you picked up and read or that Netflix documentary you watched, how did it present the content? Was it dry fact and bullet points or was it a journey? Now content can come in both forms but I bet the journey is the one that's going to keep you coming back and turning the pages.
Think about how Malcolm Gladwell or Seth Godin reads compared to let's say your average white paper and even in the beginning of this section, I gave you a small human story. Remember the startup founder that came to me after the presentation. It was an anecdote, an apocryphal tale. But we've been doing this as a species for thousands of years. To convey meaning to lead audiences and to create positive change.
If you want to grow your audience today as a podcast, you must have a good content narrative. In the context of a book or watching a Netflix episode, it's the reason why I'm going to stick around and consume the next episode. Podcast designed without a good narrative may succeed in getting an audience to one specific episode, but fail to convert that audience into subscribers over repeat listeners. And the reason is, is that episode one has nothing to do with episode two and episode three. There's only so much of your time, per audience's attention that you can take for granted these days. You can build a compelling narrative for a corporate brand. McKinsey's Future of Asia podcasts, for example, has a strong through story. The core theme is the future of Asia, as it says on the podcast itself. Within that the macro trends of the Asian century from the rise of Asians middle classes to the evolution of its dynamic startup ecosystems. A good narrative should also lead a category. In marketing terms, this is simply called a category narrative. Sometimes it's called a strategic narrative.
Think of how red bull, for example, rather than playing in this soda category decided to define the category of e