Storytelling – an introduction

Storytelling is important, whether you are a filmmaker, marketing specialist or animation artist. 

The mere enumeration of facts doesn’t grab us humans nearly as much as an exciting story that appeals to the head and heart. 

One of the most important factors in storytelling is emotion. Because every emotion is a strong feeling that, linked to experiences, memories, situations or even good stories, stays in our minds. And that is ultimately the great goal of storytelling. We don’t want to get lost in the endless, ever-growing pile of information and bland stories. We want to be remembered. We want attention. We want to change the world – or at least we should. And you can’t do that with stories that get under your skin.

Stories are as old as people. Over the centuries, therefore, various ways of conveying stories have developed – from cave paintings to sagas, songs and fairy tales.

The term “history” describes in German usage “Vergangenheit” (history), but also “Erzählung” (story). History is a review of the real and historical developments of mankind or of a certain period of time that lies in the past. A story is a narrative form, a narration that depicts different events from the past, present or future and has much more scope, as it can be real or fictional. (Sammer 2017, 20f.)

However, history and narrative are equally about “how people deal with and in particular circumstances.” (Sammer 2017, 21)

Storytelling thus combines both terms and can be seen as the art of how to reproduce actions and experiences from the past on the one hand and how to narrate real or fictional events – which are independent of time – on the other. (Sammer 2017, 21)

But what is the classic recipe for successful storytelling*?

Basically, there are five building blocks: 

1. every good story has a good reason for being told.

If you want to tell your story successfully, you have to clearly state your motives and explain the meaning behind them. 

2. every good story has a hero

A protagonist with whom you can identify is an important aspect of successful storytelling. 

3. every good story starts with a conflict. 

Because if everything is fine from the beginning, it’s hard to create tension. We must not only be able to identify with the protagonists, but also empathize with their emotions.

4. every good story arouses emotions.

Real enthusiasm and motivation can hardly be achieved by pure facts and data. 

5. every good story is viral.

Virality has not just existed since social media – stories like Hansel and Gretel have been told for a very long time. But through the Internet, there is an incredibly powerful platform for this, with which one can tell transmedial. (Sammer 2017, 49)

So, in summary, the classic ingredients for a successful storytelling recipe are:

  • A meaningful brand
  • A hero
  • A conflict
  • Emotions
  • And multimedia (Sammer 2017, 50)

Is it possible to break these rules? How can you do storytelling in an unconventional way? I will address these questions in my next blog post. 

*in this blog post storytelling refers to companies and brands


Sammer, Petra (2017): Storytelling. Strategien und Best Practices für PR und Marketing. Heidelberg: dpunkt.verlag GmbH