Finding “Greatness” in Storytelling

Anything can be news, but not everything is technically newsworthy. There are good stories, and then there are GOOD stories. As media consumers, we search for the GOOD and weed out the rest through identifying what makes a story something we identify with.

How stories are told can be even more important than what a story is about. Yes, topic matters, but storytelling is one of the most crucial elements of how we receive messages through news stories and media and it can make a story really good or really bad. A news topic or story idea can be amplified and made valuable if there is a strong storytelling component.

Storytelling is something that is not only used in news broadcasts and print news like newspapers or magazines. It is also used in social media and advertising. Because social media and advertising are usually more concise and limited in length or time than other media, storytelling becomes even more important.

Storytelling gives meaning and adds value to a topic that could be otherwise overlooked. It connects a story with its readers and attaches itself to our emotional complex. This is not to say that writers and social media editors should exaggerate or lie about the topic of interest, but find an angle that turns normal information into a real, emotionally-charged story.

Through the use of strong storytelling, stories and ideas imprint themselves in our brains. The emotional value we feel from a story can be much more memorable than the story itself. We easily remember how we feel when we watch or read something and that is likely to be the first thing we think about when we reference back to a specific story.

One of my favorite examples of storytelling is in a Nike TV commercial called “Find Your Greatness.” The commercial features a 12 year-old boy from Ohio who is what would socially be considered overweight. The commercial is not fancy- there are no special effects and no music, just the image of the boy running on a road with the narrator’s voice.

In this commercial, they never talk about a product; it is strictly about the boy and his story. We can infer a lot from the video that they show us, though- he is overweight, working to slim down, and “find his greatness.”

The narration adds a storytelling component through speaking of the social construct that we perceive to be “greatness.” We think greatness is reserved for specific people who may have special talents or abilities, but Nike knocks that idea to the ground. They turn “greatness” into something that we can all achieve and make personal. They turn it into something that is possible and available in any realm.

This storytelling is what makes the commercial stick with me. They are not trying to throw products in my face or give me useless information. They turned their commercial into an emotionally-charged, relatable story that gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

Another example of great storytelling is in Derek Jeter’s farewell commercial for Gatorade. The commercial follows Derek Jeter around The Bronx, meeting with fans on the street and visiting local restaurants and stores. The commercial focuses on Jeter’s great reputation as a Yankees player and the relationships that he garnered with his fans.

The level of storytelling in this ad is off the charts and they do so without narration. First, the video and images speak a thousand words. You see Jeter roaming the streets of New York, meeting with young kids and pedestrians in Yankees apparel. It shows how much Yankees fans looked up to him as a player and a personality.

Another thing- you don’t have to be a Yankees fan or even a sports fan to see the emotional value within the storytelling of this commercial. It presents Jeter as a normal guy, who did his job as a baseball player and created a great name for himself in New York. It shows how much people love him and how close he feels to New York, both the team and the city.

The emotional value of this commercial is what makes people relate to it and remember it, but that emotional appeal is only possible through effective storytelling that produces memorable messages and feelings. It doesn’t focus on a product, but rather the story that product represents and what that means to its consumers.

To me, emotional appeal is one of the most important criteria in what makes a good story good. It has to achieve something deeper, whether it is a news story, an advertisement, or a social media post. People do not just want to read or hear useless recitation of facts; we want to feel.

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