The fundamentals of storytelling

By Kevin Chesters

We talk a lot about storytelling in our business.

I’ve studied a lot, read a lot and written a lot about it myself.

It’s very rare that one gets to spend a morning with some true legends of the game.

This was a brilliant morning about storytelling, hosted and expertly marshalled by the amazing Lucy Hockings at one of the homes of great stories, the BBC.

To give away the ending of the story the conclusion was simple. The fundamental rules of great storytelling don't change - regardless of the medium or the subject.

First up, Tony Fallshaw, lessons from one of the true icons of visual storytelling.

He’s the man who filmed the fall of the Berlin Wall so when he talks you listen. And he’s been there to capture the stories from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Gaza to Ukraine. The lesson that stuck with me for the day job was all about relevance, relatability and personalising the story. It was a powerful lesson that as platforms and technologies change the fundamentals of powerful storytelling don’t. And he also reminded us of the vital importance of craft. Crap content is crap content regardless of where you watch it.

Next was a true treat. Executive Producer of Planet Earth II, Mike Gunton, built on Tony's key points by talking through the lessons of telling powerful stories through documentary. This was a fascinating thesis on storytelling. Whether it’s rhinos or snow leopards, it’s still about Drama, Spectacle & Surprise. Whether it is people or baby turtles it is remarkable to have it confirmed that it's all about Relevance, Casting(!) and Character. Engagement rules remain the same, regardless of the unit of creativity or subject matter. Oh, and THAT Iguana sequence. Gets me every time!

Finally, Richard Pattinson of BBC Storyworks, took the audience through some of the new ways we can measure and quantify the impact of our engagement in the stories we tell.

One final treat was a sneak peek from Mike Gunton on some truly remarkable new content from his team (and Sir David) that’s coming in the Autumn.

An inspirational, educational and useful morning. 

All before 11am. Not often you can say that.

By Kevin Chesters, CSO at Ogilvy. Follow him @hairychesters