Crafting your backstory in three easy steps

It's easy to set the stage for your story. Just let your audience know where you have been, where you are now, and where you are headed. The backstory in your personal narrative begins to establish the purpose of your quest.

When you are using the Story Cycle to craft your brand story, the backstory helps you identify and articulate your brand's unique position in the marketplace by examining where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going. 

We learned a way to simplify the thinking around your backstory by drafting an "And, But, Therefore" (ABT) statement. Start by writing a short sentence or two that includes and, but and therefore. In fact, we foreshadowed the ABT in the introduction with our backstory.

Park&Co has been in the advertising business for 20 years, AND we have celebrated many successes turning award-winning campaigns into meaningful movements that matter. BUT, disruptive social and technological forces have impacted how customers choose to communicate and engage with brands. The influence of mass media no longer works, because the masses have become the media.  THEREFORE, we have found that the proven power of storytelling has never been more essential to help purpose-driven people and brands connect with each other and create abundance for the greater good.

Think of the ABT as the DNA of your story. Make it concise. It's the building block for the rest of your narrative. We have our good friend, Dr. Randy Olson, to thank for bringing the ABT to our attention. 

Randy earned his PhD in Biology from Harvard, AND became a tenured professor in marine biology at the University of New Hampshire, BUT he got tired of the way brilliant scientists could not communicate their lofty ideas with the general public to help advance humanity. THEREFORE, he changed careers and went to USC's vaunted film school to learn how to turn scientists into meaningful storytellers.

Ironically, this biologist/academic turned filmmaker/author discovered the ABT through a most unlikely source: South Park's Cartmen. But that's another story.

We first learned about the "And, But, Therefore" process through Randy Olson's excellent book: Connection – Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking

The ABT works because it's a three-act story structure, albeit a micro one.

  1. AND is the exposition or "set up" of the story. 
  2. BUT is about conflict. Without conflict, there is no story.
  3. THEREFORE is the statement that resolves the story problem set-up by the AND and created by the BUT.

Our minds, particularly our subconscious, yield helplessly to the ABT construct. Why? Because its three-act structure of situation/problem/resolution is the way we learn. Remember, we are meaning-making machines. 

Let's begin crafting your backstory using the ABT structure.

Step 1: Tell us where you have been

This is the AND in your ABT Backstory. Write a sentence describing the specific circumstance that sets-up your personal story, and please remember to use an and or two to help us understand the situation.  

I have been helping brands tell their stories for 30 years, AND our agency has celebrated many successes turning award-winning campaigns into meaningful movements that matter.

Step 2: Tell us where you are now

This is the BUT in your ABT Backstory. Write a sentence beginning with but that introduces the conflict in your story. Without conflict, you have no story. Conflict shakes us out of status quo, which leads to our call to adventure and gets us off our butts.

BUT, disruptive social and technological forces have impacted how customers choose to communicate and engage with brands. The influence of mass media no longer works, because the masses have become the media. ​

Step 3: Tell us where you are going

This is the THEREFORE in your ABT backstory. Now conclude your backstory with a therefore statement that brings some resolution as to why you started your journey in the first place. 

THEREFORE, we have found that the proven power of storytelling has never been more essential to help people connect and create abundance for the greater good.

Extra credit

Now that you have considered the backstory of your personal story, can you see how this same idea works when authoring your brand story? The first step in the brand Story Cycle process is to determine its #1 position in the marketplace. Use the ABT to set the stage, and then refine your backstory down to your position statement: What, functionally, does your brand do better than your competition in terms of its features and benefits? Jot down your answer on a side notepad and see where your brand story goes.

Once you're finished with your backstory, please click the "complete" button below and move to Chapter 2, "Who's Your Hero?"

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