How to Create Better Ad Campaigns with the Story Canvas
When you’re a bit familiar with the startup world and ideas for developing new business ideas, you probably know the business-model canvas. But have you ever heard about the story canvas before? It’s a great tool for developing enchanting stories, especially when you work in film or advertising.
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What is a Story Canvas?
A story canvas shows the points and goals of your story within a clear framework. For example, it handles the key messages and objectives for your audience—and even more decisive factors.
But how do you structure it? Are there any main categories to consider?
Fortunately, a story canvas provides several sections, which already categorize the most important variables for your story formula.
During the process of creating your story, you should go through each part of the canvas, and make up your mind about every single frame.
You just write your ideas into the proper field of the canvas. Then you can see your ideas actually take form.
The story canvas helps you to structure your ideas.
What is a Story Canvas Good for?
Since you go through each section of your canvas as you make decisions, you get an increasingly precise vision of what your story should contain. It’s also completely okay to reject or rethink ideas during the whole process—because that’s exactly what the story canvas is made for.
You can’t consider all of the relevant facts at once, especially at the start of your project. So you have to write everything down first before getting more in-depth.
Due to the predefined categories, a big benefit of the story canvas is the clear structure it provides. You can see all of the affecting categories in one glance. Besides, every note is properly sorted in the appropriate framework field.
Another big plus of the story canvas is that you don’t have to stick with the same story during your entire project.
If some things don’t work anymore due to changing circumstances, you can improve your story by just redesigning your notes right in the canvas. This flexibility provides a way more agile way of designing your story.
Since you can see everything at once, a story canvas gives you a great overview about how your decisive factors are connected to each other. Each category has an impact on the other categories.
Thanks to the clear overview, you immediately recognize the consequences that the factors have on the final result. You could also say that the story canvas gives you a sense of how the whole underlying art of storytelling interlaces.
How Do You Use a Story Canvas?
Similar to the Business Model Canvas, a story canvas is grouped into several segments, which handle each different category. Every single category is an important factor in your story.
To develop a great story, you work on each category step-by-step and see how they’re connected. When combined, they round up all the variables.
1. The Purpose
The most important thing is the big reason why you want to tell a certain story to your audience. What do you want to achieve? What impact do you want your story to have on the lives of your customers? Why are you making the effort to visualize a story?
Your purpose belongs in the headline of your canvas, and it can be emphasized in one meaningful sentence.
2. The Audience
The audience is one of the most important issues in your canvas. After all, they’re who you’re trying to reach. Most of the time, your main purpose is to get the attention of your audience.
They’re the group of people you’re aiming for. Marketers also call them the target group.
Your audience is the most important factor while creating your story.
You can break them down into two main kinds of people: your primary and secondary audiences. The primary audience is the main group you want to reach.
The secondary audience are viewers who aren’t necessarily interested in your product, but they may have an influence on your primary audience. They could be relatives, children, friends, or neighbors.
For example, if your company sells toys, your primary audience is children, but your secondary audience is the parents or relatives who buy the products for their kids.
3. Key Messages
What’s your key message? Most stories have some kind of message they want to convey. Your key message is the most meaningful value your story is supposed to contain. It can be inspired by the company vision your company has already determined.
4. Call to Action
After figuring out your key messages, the next step is to send a clear about what you want your audience to do after telling them the story. After all, your story should trigger some kind of interaction with your audience.
Do you want them to share it or visit your homepage? Is there a giveaway waiting for them? The options are endless.
Instead of just throwing in a video clip about your product, your spectators are supposed to get excited about contacting you. That’s why the call to action is essential for creating a successful story for your campaign.
5. The Story
In this section, you write down your thoughts about your actual story. What is it about? What is the plot? Who is the protagonist, and what kind of journey is he or she going on?
While narrating a story, the principle of “The Hero’s Journey” is the most popular pattern to stick with.
This kind of narration is rooted in the history of humankind. Even ancient stories and sagas followed this paradigm.
In most cases, you can identify the protagonist while listening to a story. If your hero is a man, he is the main focus because he’s the one going on an adventure and learning new things.
During his odyssey, he experiences a change because he has learned a meaningful lesson that he will never forget.
Since you also want to get your very key message across, the protagonist should represent your target audience.
Put your spectators into the role of the hero who’s going through the adventure. Make them a part of it. You want to get your key message across, and feel the emotions the story is conveying.
6. Look & Feel
Since people tend to remember things through their emotions, it’s a fact that you should clearly think about how you want your audience to feel. Their feelings should fit with your vision and the key messages you’re aiming to convey.
Every narration has its own mood and ambience. So it’s up to you to determine what sort of ambience it should be.
7. Style & Tone
This part is closely connected to the previous section. You’ve already figured out the emotions you want to pass on to your audience—and the general ambience the story should have.
Now it’s time to specify the instruments and techniques you’re planning to use.
What kind of design do you want to use? Which pitch is best suited for your story? A sepia tone fits a nostalgic scene, while a bright, shiny tone suits a happy mood.
If you decide to use a film as your storytelling medium, the music plays a huge role in the overall ambience you produce. A melody has a tremendous impact on how people feel as they’re viewing.
A story is enhanced by using certain colors, effects, and tracks. They’re the keys to creating the right tone.
8. People & Places
Every story has its own setting and scenery. Thus, you should think about which kind of people and locations you want to use in your story.
Whether it’s an idyllic forest, a small picturesque village, or a big crowded city, it should be appropriate to the story’s atmosphere which you already determined.
The kind of people interacting in your story should also be considered. Since your audience is supposed to identify with the characters as much as possible, you should think of your target audience as the protagonist.
So if your main audience is a man between 18 and 30 years old, you should make the main character a young man.
This step addresses the channels you want to use while reaching out to your audience. To get the story to your target audience, it’s essential to figure out how to get them to interact with you.
Since you’re seeking their attention and putting the effort into creating a nice story, you want a certain number of reactions. And you want people to acknowledge your effort. Therefore, the communication channels you choose are crucial to the potential scope of your story.
If your story shall reach your audience, the right communication channel is essential.
They determine the success of your campaign, and they’re able to boost the number of reactions from your audience. So the touch points—where, when, and how you’re going to share your story—can be written down in this field of the canvas.
It’s helpful to specify two or three main channels of communication you can focus on, then plan a strategy for each one. This tactic also gives you an overview of which channels might work better than the others.
10. Goals & Objectives
There’s a actually a difference between goals and objectives. Goals define the bigger impact you want to have, whiler objectives are measurable goals that are actually achievable.
The purpose of this distinction is to articulate your bigger dreams and the impact you want to make (your goals) and your steps and milestones (your objectives).
Goals and objectives help to simultaneously stay realistic and think big. After all, to achieve big things, you still need to think in realizable, little steps. So basically, your big goals and your pragmatic objectives go hand-in-hand.
To sum it all up, a story canvas is a great way to concretize your ideas and get an overview of which criteria you need to stick with.
But there is one thing you should consider while creating a story canvas: it’s very rare that you’ll stick with your first draft. It’s way more common to create several versions of your story canvas.
It's completely okay to rethink your ideas several times during the process.
Then you’ll get more precise from draft to draft. And eventually, you’ll have a clear vision of what kind of story you want to tell—and how you’re going to achieve that.
The most important lesson you can learn from a story canvas is that every decision should relate to the audience you’re trying to reach. They should be the focus of your interest, so that’s why your concept should be be tailored to them.