Introducing: StoryAccelerator (and a New StoryGuide, too)
Deepening Woden’s storytelling process ensures clients can reap the transformative potential of their StoryKernel
By Ed Lynes
Loop Email CEO Bostjan Bregar was a happy Woden client. Over a period of three months, our creative team had extensively researched his company and distilled that information into a clear, compelling strategic narrative: Loop’s StoryKernel™. We had collaborated with his team in a StorySeminar™ to refine it, and built out values, positioning, a mission statement, and more. Yet, two weeks after delivering the Loop StoryGuide™, we gathered to debrief his feedback—and discovered he hadn’t been able to figure out what to do with the pinnacle of our project:
“What I really needed was a deck or a summary of recommendations. 300 pages is too much for me to digest, even if the ideas are good.”
Woden has a unique belief that story is not about marketing, but rather that it’s a strategic function that must be holistically implemented in all an organization does. When we last revised the StoryGuide in 2018 this belief caused us to ensure it was all-encompassing: thirteen chapters of copy, ideas, and analysis meant to show the breadth of how the StoryKernel could be applied.
Loop’s response to the StoryGuide wasn’t unique. Across more than 200 engagements, clients raved about how the StoryKernel gave clarity to their purpose, and the way their StorySeminar inspired their team to align behind that message. But the StoryGuide felt unwieldy: packed with great insights, but tough to use in a way that realized the transformative potential of a brand story.
Focus on Potential, Not Product
Woden’s product offerings have been through several evolutions over the years: the development of the original StoryGuide, the launch of the StorySeminar, and the significant revision of the StoryGuide away from marketing and toward holistic application. In each of these instances, the creative team connected client feedback to necessary product improvements. That approach had led to engagements and products that continually got “better” and reflected what clients asked for, but had not always achieved the changes those clients were seeking to create in their organizations.
That changed with the promotion of Hannah Landers as Woden’s Director of Product in January 2021. Over more than three years, Hannah had personally led almost 100 engagements, which had provided a better perspective of what clients needed than any other Wodenworker past or present. Dozens of client debriefs guided her to the conclusion that Woden engagements needed to retain the holistic and expansive vision of the StoryGuide, but become much wieldier—and simpler to implement.
While Hannah and the creative team were considering the best ways to improve upon the StoryGuide, Woden’s Director of Business Development Fred Osu gathered feedback from prospective clients that informed their work. Woden’s book, Story is the Strategy, streamlined the application of story into four primary areas—culture, growth, customer experience, and strategy—a framing that resonated with businesses for its simplicity.
External stakeholders of all stripes expressed desire for greater utility in the work. The StoryKernel and StorySeminar provided storytelling content that was ready for application, whereas the StoryGuide’s best ideas often felt buried behind details around landing page copy or the cadence of cold email.
As the restructured StoryGuide came into focus, the team continued to grapple with the second challenge most often faced by clients: converting research, multiple presentations, and strategy into the daily actions that would ensure the organization was fully aligned behind its story.
One Evolution; Two Products
Hannah’s original intent had been to evolve the StoryGuide so clients could more capably implement it. Achieving this aim required two products: a better StoryGuide, and a way for Woden to support implementation over a period of several months—which we started to call StoryAccelerator™.
It became increasingly clear one product could not exist without the other, any more than the StoryGuide could not exist without a StoryKernel. The decision was made to develop both products in parallel, ensuring the StoryGuide would integrate with a product that didn’t even exist yet, but would help it deliver on clients’ expectations.
The structure of the StoryGuide was simplified from 13 sections down to five:
- Understanding Your StoryKernel
- Become Your Story’s Mentor
- Leveraging Your Story for Growth
- Empowering the Hero of Your Story
- Realizing the Potential of the Mended World
These sections address the brand story, culture, growth, customer experience, and strategy respectively—the key areas where every brand must apply their story. At the center of these sections is a detailed, visual customer journey that maps the Hero’s Journey narrative arc in a linear fashion to the customer’s own experience, illustrating how the StoryKernel directly translates to the way customers receive and use information to make buying decisions. Detailed buyer personas and product applications outline exactly how a strategic story works as the unifying narrative for the individual messaging used for a brands’ diverse audiences.
The information in each section is organized into a four-part structure: an in-depth analysis of the client’s current efforts in that area, a detailed strategy for implementing the StoryKernel, context for why story matters to that part of the business, and a summary of recommendations.
Each section summary provides leaders with the critical information they need to quickly affect change in that part of their organization, while the analysis and strategy provide detailed guidance that operational managers and employees can use to direct their efforts. The new StoryGuide sections are designed to stand alone—an approach that empowers each area of an organization to independently execute the relevant parts of their story.
As Woden’s creative team worked through the development of this new approach and began working on the first client to benefit from it—experiential events product agency OVATION—they discovered that the new format allowed them to think more strategically about client outcomes. Where the previous StoryGuide had emphasized tactics in a large number of areas, the new StoryGuide shows leaders how to think about the potential of their story in the interdisciplinary manner where it can achieve the most value.
This approach makes the StoryGuide’s recommendations easier to digest—and act upon. But the guide still lacked the tactical content and action plans Woden clients craved to implement their story.
Accelerating the Impact of Story
Alongside the strategies explored in the new StoryGuide, Hannah challenged Woden’s creative team to develop a plan for how they would come into being. The list of additional deliverables required by clients—web copy, sales decks, email campaigns, loyalty programs, recruitment materials and more—were the start of an entirely new product: StoryAccelerator.
StoryAccelerator maps out how to implement the story in an additive way over months. The materials clients require are prioritized and further developed in a collaborative process that ensures changes such as new web copy are also opportunities for the client to better understand their own story—and feel confident carrying it forward in the future. Moving implementation from a one-time delivery of the StoryGuide to a period of months minimizes disruption with the other aspects of the client’s business, and helps increase enthusiasm among employees to realize the transformative potential of their story.
The creative team pushed StoryAccelerator beyond just deliverables to offer the same type of collaboration and partnership clients experience in the StorySeminar, but on a monthly basis. A monthly consulting session was developed along with project management, editing support for client-created materials, and access to a platform of partners to meet specific client needs.
In only a few months, StoryAccelerator has already changed the way clients use their StoryGuide. Employees beyond the core team engaged in Woden’s project are better understanding how to use the StoryKernel and feeling the impact quicker than ever: Elevator pitches and sales playbooks are being deployed within days, and websites are capturing story-driven language overnight—a process that might have taken months of internal work in the past.
Woden is guided by a purpose to “help organizations clearly articulate their purpose, and align all they do behind that story.” Our emphasis on translating brand stories from esoteric copy into actionable frameworks has long been our core differentiator and, thanks to this evolution of the StoryGuide and development of StoryAccelerator, organizations are better positioned to achieve this transformation than ever before.