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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E34. The Business of Story and Brand Bewitchery with Park Howell



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, a show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco first. My guest today is Park Howell Park is a 35 year veteran of the branding arts and is now considered the world's most industrial storyteller, who has helped brands grow by as much as 60%. With the power of story. He hosts the popular business of story podcast, and has just released his first book brand be witchery how to wield the story cycle system to craft spellbinding stories for your brand's park might also be the only storyteller. I know who recognises the wonder and joy of Ben Folds. The modern day Elton John, ladies and gentlemen, Powell cow. Park, welcome to the show.


Park Howell 1:50

Francisco thank you so much for having me. How did you know that I love Ben Folds Five. Well, you


Francisco Mahfuz 1:55

know, I am someone who who does his research work diligently. And one of the one of my criteria for figuring out when I'm ready to start prepping for for a podcast episode is have I got something a bit odd that I wouldn't have found out just by looking at your website or listened to, to normal episode, a normal podcast episode. And when I heard that when, I don't know a Big Ben Folds. fan myself i i was lucky enough to watch him live in London many years ago, I think had just stopped being Ben Folds Five at the time. And then I heard that I didn't even realise how activist he was. But I enjoyed watching a gig a week or something. Yeah, Patreon.


Park Howell 2:43

It's just amazing for like $9 a month he comes on and he does a couple shows live, you know, not even shows. He's just there with you. They're like sometimes their songwriting master classes. Other times you're looking over his shoulder and he's teaching piano lessons, or he's talking about his own songs that he has written or he does just music appreciation, and he's live. Going through the scroll answers your questions, jokes around. I mean, it's one of the coolest things that I found during COVID. Yeah, because he's stuck in an apartment over in Sydney, Australia. He's not touring. So it's a way for him to keep, you know, in contact with his fans and assist. It's just a delight. I love doing it.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:25

It's a pretty good move for him, given that he can tour at the moment. And I can't imagine that he has found that he's probably had no shortage of takers for that patreon account.


Park Howell 3:37

Well, it's interesting. Francisco, sometimes you can go on and there's like 50 people on it. So it's very intimate. And he gets a chance to say hello to everyone. And he answers your questions. And then just last week, I was there there's over 100 on it. So it kind of fluctuates. And I can't hit them all, but I love it when I can. It Yeah, it's very, very smart woman. As a kid, you know, you'd mentioned I've been in the branding arts for 35 years. So yes, I've been doing this a long time. And as a kid, my very first album I ever bought was Elton John, very first concert I ever went to his Elton John course a big Billy Joel fan and others and then when I found Ben Folds in the early 1990s I was looking for some new talents that pop singer keyboard songwriter and found a band and just loved his his music and I've been a big big follower of his ever since


Francisco Mahfuz 4:27

you're talking about you know, when you were a kid. And now I have this feeling here and I'm not sure if I'm correct in my guess but but there's a couple of quotes that I drawn from your book, right? If content is king, as so many content marketers profess, then storytelling is the kingdom sorcerer, because telling stories is where the magic happens. And then there's this thing that you said many times throughout the book, which is you have to understand the magic to cast the spell. Now both things really speak to the nerd in me. And I read this and I thought, well, if you use To be a role playing Dungeons and Dragons nodes, you're not hiding it very well. Is that actually true? I guess this right? No, no, no


Park Howell 5:10

Francisco I honestly, I have never played Dungeons and Dragons one time. And I can tell you our son, who's in Hollywood, he's a director of mixed reality. In motion design over there. They just did a live Dungeons and Dragons stream for three and a half hours on Twitch. And they did it with all this motion graphics and design. And as they went on these grand, you know, quests, I guess, as they do in d&d. They were battling real life animated monsters and whatnot in front of them, and people got to vote in or whatever. So that's the closest I have ever come to play Dungeons and Dragons, that particular production is called Insta quest. And people can go on Twitch and check it out it it will blow your mind from a storytelling and a production side of it. But nope, nope. I must say I have never once tried Dungeons and Dragons.


Francisco Mahfuz 6:04

Fair enough. Fair enough. Okay, so start getting I've got I've got loads of quotes from your book, which I which I mentioned to add, I've read recently. I mean, recently is the only way to have read it. It's only it's only it's only come out a few months ago, right? Mm hmm. So another thing you I believe is from the book or maybe somewhere I've heard just something I heard you say somewhere else, which is the masses have become the media. Journalists is part of the backstory. But can you just explain one, you know, what, what do you mean by that? And also, why would story be a potential solution to that?


Park Howell 6:39

Yeah, I ran my own ad agency in Phoenix, Arizona for 20 years. And I started it back in 1995. Really kind of pre internet, just as we know it today, anyway. And before that, I'd spent 10 years in the advertising business for other agencies. And it used to be a lot easier Francisco when our clients at the time, own the influence of mass media, meaning there was TV, radio, print, being newspaper magazine, no outdoor billboards, public relations, direct mail, events, and no Yelp. And so brands could pretty much tell you whatever they want to tell you and try to whip you into submission to buy the best ones still told stories even back then. But it wasn't nearly as crucial as today. In 2006, I realised that the old way of advertising, marketing and branding was no longer working hit me upside the head. And it was precisely because of technology and the internet, e commerce was really coming into its own social media was just taking off. And that's why I say well, brands used to own the influence of mass media. Now the masses, you and I and your listeners are the media. And we get to be our own TV station, Radio Station, print house 24/7 With global reach from the privacy of our own kitchen table. So they own your story. They own my story. And they're willing to tell your story in all its glory, or its greenness on Yelp. So that's why I say the battlegrounds has shifted, that the masses are the media. And the reason why storytelling is so important now is we have been able to create this marvellous technology that compounds exponentially in its ability to deliver message that like Moore's law, the rate of Moore's law, which means you and I and everyone else is pushing out content at that compounding rate. Yet, you and I are still walking around with that monkey brain apparatus called our limbic system, at the base of our spinal cord. That is about fight flight, subconscious, you know, the amygdala. And it is where we decipher this information that we are getting bombarded with. So the same brain apparatus that our ancestors used to navigate and survive this savanna 3040 50,000 years ago, is the exact same apparatus that we use to navigate and survive the internet and the day lose of information that we are bombarded by as I mentioned, and we just want to brush aside. That's where Francisco I found the primal power of a good story well told is what helps us hack through the noise of the internet and hook the hearts of our audiences. Because it was that same primal power, that same ability homosapiens had to tell stories that helped us evolve from cavemen and women to consumers today.


Francisco Mahfuz 9:43

I want to get into into your book and your approach to this. But one thing I wanted to just talk about before was, as you as I mentioned, I had your friend Sean Callahan, and in the show a couple of weeks ago actually his episode just came out Today as we're recording, and I called him the godfather of business storytelling, I appreciate it. But Sean's approach in your approach to me, exemplify to, in a way to extremes of what what we tend to refer to as storytelling, in the sense because Sean is the is the king of small stories, more oral stories, whereas yours at least the one of your approaches, the story cycle system is more about picking out the elements of story and using that as a branding tool. And as a way to, within call you call it clarify your message to the fire.


Park Howell 10:43

Clarify your fire live, amplify your message, simplify your life. Yep.


Francisco Mahfuz 10:49

So So I just want to talk a bit about that which I find, which I find very interesting, because one approach is genuinely just tell one to three minutes stories. That's it. And the other one is, I think, much more of a scientific approach to, to let's find what works with story and let's use it. So I know you and I know you do tell stories, and your book is filled with them. But just I wanted to talk about this, this difference between the different ways that storytelling can be used in business, and particularly the main way you use it with the story cycle system.


Park Howell 11:23

Or Francisco I admire Sean Callahan and the fine folks out at anecdote in Melbourne, Australia very, very much. In fact, I went through and got certified on one of their programmes, and I've taught it here in America and you're exactly right. They're brilliant technicians tacticians, at telling oral stories, which are quite different than written stories and others. I got my start from my background, being in the branding world. I had mentioned in 2006, that things weren't working like they did before. And I needed an answer. And I was just hearing this term about story and storytelling bubbling up. And quite honestly, Francisco. I said, Yes. So what I mean, we've been telling stories ever since we started this agency, what's the big deal? We just haven't, you know, put a stamp on it? Well, I learned that we were only partially effective telling stories because we weren't intentional. We were using our intuitive creativity to tell stories. But it didn't always work for us, because sometimes we lacked creativity getting away of the storytelling. And so we might be running two commercials to 32nd TV commercials, one of them pulled really well. The second one not very much. And we didn't know why at the time. When I started studying story, I could look back and say, oh my god, it's because this one, commercial a has story structure to it. Commercial B was just a creative, whatever, something that we let our ego get in the way and push out and it didn't resonate with people. So I tried to move people from being intuitive storytellers, as we all are, to intentional ones learning the Applied Science and be witchery of storytelling. I learned it through Joseph Campbell, one of America's foremost mythologist. Because our middle child, our son, Parker was going to film school at Chapman University in Orange, California, and he went from 2006 2010 graduated has been in Hollywood ever since he's the guy that did the live stream, as I mentioned, well, while he was going to school there, Francisco, I said, Parker, send me your books when you're done with them, since I'm paying for them. Because I would like to know what are they teaching you to be a competitive storyteller in the most competitive storytelling market in the world, being Hollywood in Los Angeles. So that's what he did. And that's when I found the hero's journey. I recognise its structure immediately and how powerful it could be to branding. So I took Campbell's 12 Steps map to the business called it my story cycle system, immediately applied it my very first brand Academy a the first apply to to back in 2009 2010, has grown by 600% Because and they will tell you events that data for you, the former CEO who was there for 15 years, will tell you it was precisely because they got their story, their overall brand narrative dialled in, and could get everybody buying into the vision it created for them. And there's a compelling mission that put them on. It was after that. So that was the heavy lifting. That's my large narrative arc that I use for long form communication, brand strategy development, so forth. As I was studying that learning it as best I could, is when I found the likes of Sean Callahan and anecdote and thought, Oh, that's really interesting what they're doing with these small stories because the small stories are absolutely critical to the success of your overall brand narrative. Think of your overarching brand narrative as the screenplay to your epic movie, your epic adventure and all these different scenes happen to transport your audience through that primary character. from one point to another, well those little stories that Shawn teaches are those little scenes. And so I use them to I, I have to dissect them out and called the the five primal elements of a short story for big impact timestamp, location stamp character, and I learned this from Sean, action and surprise, and then what is the business point that is being made in that. So that was my second level of story training that I teach, because you can use those five primal elements of story anywhere and everywhere, not just in your brand storytelling. And then the third one I found is the and but in there for which is this foundational narrative framework that I learned from Dr. Randy Olson, and he and I become fast friends and we are now working together teaching it in the science community be also in the in the business community,


Francisco Mahfuz 15:51

it's probably worth giving, giving a bit of credit to one of the most unlikely business gurus of all time. Eric Cartman, from South Park. High understand was, I think he, I think Trey Parker inspired the end. But farts Yeah, came up with it. Therefore,


Park Howell 16:11

there's a terrific video on YouTube called six days to air where Matt Stone and Trey Parker go through what it takes to put a South Park episode on and if there's a new one going on this Sunday on on Comedy Central, they will have just scripted and produced it this week. Literally, they give them six days to air to come up with the show and get get finished. Well Southpark is one of the longest running TV series ever. And B to be able to do that and not really give you the luxury of having many months to produce a single episode means you must have a pretty doggone good system down. And they talked about what that system is it all starts with story structure of instead of and, and and ending your audience to death which is boring. Say, you know, Eric Cartman wakes up in the morning and he goes down to have breakfast before school. But his whole family has moved out overnights, therefore, he runs next door to see what's going on. But that family is completely gone to therefore. So you get this but therefore you get this action sequence of problem resolution problem resolution going when I learned this from Dr. Olson, who by the way, is a Harvard PhD evolutionary biologist. So he knows something about this brain of ours. And its survival is its survival need. He also went on to film school Chapman University or I'm sorry, USC, graduated, produce three documentaries and has written four books teaching scientists what he learned in Hollywood, about how to better communicate their big ideas. And his singular finding is the and button therefore, and I told him I said, You know what this abt is it's actually the DNA, the story. And he being the evolutionary biologist, and dammit, I wish I would have come up with that.


Francisco Mahfuz 18:07

It's like, it's a good line. Yeah. And it's, it's interesting that whenever you try to peel back the layers and find, okay, well, what is the basic structure here? So I, I had the, you know, in Burton, therefore, wasn't it was something I think I came across through you, I think. And I remember once I sat down in front of like a story, and I kept trying to say, Okay, well, what is this? And then you always end up with similar structures, because it says, Okay, well, this is the setup, or if not, the setup is the context. I think Bernadette jiwa calls it the context, the normal, whatever, and then you always gonna have Okay, the problem, the conflict, the change the, you know, the but, and then therefore, is the outcome is the consequences, the solution, the resolution, or whatever. And they're always the same. But I, the inverted four is just also a very catchy way of describing it. It's very, very easy to remember.


Park Howell 19:03

Right? Yeah, I mean, none of us have invented any of these things. So when people point to my work, the world's most industrial storyteller, which a client gave to me, by the way, and I just loved it so much I ran with it is it's a little bit like Steve Jobs in that, you know, he never invented any of that technology. But he was brilliant at being able to look at technology that was already available out there, and then put it together in a way nobody had ever put it together before and make it work. And that was the secret to his success. Well, I feel like I kind of do the same thing in the story world. I first, you know, found the hero's journey, Joseph Campbell. I said, All right, well, let's cobble this together and map it to business. So it makes sense. And that's an AR 10 Step story cycle system. Then I see the great work that anecdote is doing I go well, that is really important cogs in the whole storytelling thing. So how can you plug The stories in as you're telling your overall brand narrative. And then of course, I come across Dr. Olsen the abt and I got all the abt is so beautiful for helping you focus and find your theme. And they all play back to that mantra that I pushed so much is when you find your story, it's about clarifying your message to amplify your impact and simplify your life. That is the goal to all of this.


Francisco Mahfuz 20:25

And I've seen you talk about the some very practical ways of using the abt and I think you're talking about elevator pitches and emails, right, what


Park Howell 20:38

your one four elevator pitch, literally. So for your listeners, if they don't know what the abt is, is it set a problem resolution Francisco, just as you had said, so it's Act One, act two, act three. And you can do one of these in a sentence or two. And the first thing I want to clarify is the abt is not a story, but it uses story structure, Problem Solution dynamic that hooks that limbic system that we talked about earlier, which is is a problem solution mechanism just to keep us out of a out of trouble and alive and kicking. In. So for instance, the shortest abt I will ever tell, that uses this is most executives communicate and care, but bore, therefore, tell a story. So that and is a statement of agreement, most executives communicate, I set the context that I'm talking about communicate, executives communicating. Now I want to raise the stakes, and they actually care for the most part. So I just want my audience to, you know, be nodding along in agreement. I'm not making an opinion or an assertion, I'm just rolling that out. Now, I want to introduce the conflict, hook your monkey brain. And that is all of our monkey brains, by the way. That is, but they bore they're boring and what is boring, then meet in your head, they don't connect, their audiences are looking out the window that PowerPoints are riddled with bullets. So they're killing themselves and their audiences. They're just boring. And they're also leading this data chat starts, charts and graphs and stuff that our brain just doesn't love wrapping his head around. So therefore, here's the solution. Here's the answer to it. Tell a story. Now, how could I use that in a one four elevator pitch Francisco, you and I get on board, you know, and you just look at me and you look down. And you see my business's story shirt and you're intrigued. And you say oh, what do you do? And then I might say, I've been in the branding role for 35 years and have helped loads of purpose driven brands grow through the influence of mass media. But technology has levelled the playing field. And now we all compete in a cacophony of communication. Therefore, I consult teach coach and speak internationally, helping leaders are purpose driven brands grow and excel through the power of storytelling, boom, yeah. Or is open up, you bolt off the first floor because you're trying to get your chequebook out, hire me immediately see how that works? Yeah, or, or


Francisco Mahfuz 23:13

if you if you wanted to make that even shorter, you could just use what you said before it says, you know, most most executives communicate and care but are very boring. Therefore I have them


Park Howell 23:24

tell stories to hack through the whole Yeah, noise and hook the heart audiences. You're exactly right, exactly. Right. So you can do a longer version of it, you can boil it right down.


Francisco Mahfuz 23:33

And I've seen you describe how that's a very good structure for writing emails as well, right?


Park Howell 23:38

Yeah, I taught my programme at Arizona State University in an Executive Master's course for five years, which enabled me to work with executives from around the world. Companies like Philips electronics, Cummins, diesel, American Express, plus individuals, people looking for career changes, and whatever. And in teaching all of my work with the business of story, the abt is always prominent on it, in it, and I had, what have students say is that number one, they got to their point way quicker. So an email that may have been 100 to 150 to 200 words long before is now 40. Now 50, so they're able to cut it in half, or sometimes by two thirds. The second thing they found Francisco is people would actually comment to them, I don't know what you're doing. But I love your emails now. Because if I know what you're asking, and it doesn't take me forever to get through them and I don't have to guess at what you're about. And then number three, it simplifies everybody's life because now that emails coming in way shorter, easier to read. And it goes right through that list of they clarified their story using the and button therefore, they amplify the impact of their readers go wow, park I finally know what you're talking about. And I don't have to wade through it. And it simplifies everybody's life in the process. That's why everything I start now starts with the add button there. For,


Francisco Mahfuz 25:00

and I think that leads me to something else I wanted to pick your brain on because the the inverter for as a structure is very, very simple, I think, you know, I believe that you explain as we have just explained now, and you can, you can cover anyone could understand it based on this, you know, two three minute explanation and should be able to use it. But the the inner the five elements of story as well. But then we move towards the what you call the story cycle system. So my my feeling was the hero's journey in general is that, in a way, the barrier of entry for using it not for understanding for understanding it, I mean, it's it's built in the system. But for using it, my feeling is that the barrier of entry is a bit higher, for some people won't instinctively use it, unless they've been really, really hardcore trained on it. I mean, has that been your experience


Park Howell 25:56

it has. And when I first saw it, I thought the exact same thing. And yet I thought it was so powerful, it would be crazy not to bring it to business. And that's why I mentioned that I use the principles of the hero's journey, but I have completely mapped it to business in my 10 steps, as you saw in the book and brand be witchery. And now, by the way, I'm doing a three week brand, build a better brand story sprint, where people use my online course. And then I work with them in a group of 10 professionals. And we do two live sessions each week for three weeks. So I take them by the hand through it so they can dial in clarify their brand story, teach them how to tell it so that they can amplify their impact and ultimately simplify their life through repeat business and word of mouth marketing. What I always attempt to do in my work at the business of story is take you the reader, even if you know nothing about the hero's journey by the hand in a very logical business way. So for instance, you know, chapter one is the backstory, let's just simply set the scene. And this is where your abt comes into play. What is your abt that speaks of your business, you get that focused in and it helps you clarify what your number one position is in the marketplace? What do you do different and more distinctively than your competition to make you stand out. So it is very logistically primal stuff that you're essentially just setting the scene of the market you're in while you're there. And then you move on to chapter two, who do you help heroes so who is the centre of your story and Francisco this is where I get the single largest paradigm shift in most all branders. And marketers mind when they realise their brand, their product or service is not the centre of the story. But their customers are the centre of their story. And this is the first time that they're really asked to understand and empathise with the journey their customers are on. And the stories their customers are telling themselves about their product or their market category, so that they can start fashioning the appropriate story to connect with their customers. And I won't go through all 10 steps. But step number three, then is what's at stake. What do these folks want? And in that sum to the levels, I asked what do they wish for emotionally? What do they wish for in their their life? Because that's what you want to sell to? And then what do they want physically in order to fulfil that wish? Again, brands are usually so caught up in talking about their wonderful product or service that I've got to remind them that your stories are not about what you make, but what you make happen in people's lives. And that starts with what's at stake for your audience. So you are there to help them. And then we go through the rest of the story cycle system. And it's thought it's gone through from a business standpoint, but it's using that long form story structure as chapter headings for you to pull together your narrative elements so that you can tell and live into a very powerful brand narrative.


Francisco Mahfuz 29:09

I wanted to ask about Bob's not all of the steps outside of that than that we have for that. But I just wanted to ask you a bit more about the last three steps because because we're never seen anyone try to use the hero's journey before it's it's a shorter version than yours. And and I don't think I've seen those steps. I definitely have not seen Morrow and ritual, which was the last two steps. So So I just wanted to just talk a little bit particularly about ritual because that one I find very, very interesting. I think moral probably aligns a bit more with people with understand us purpose, whereas ritual, I don't think I've come across that before.


Park Howell 29:49

Yeah, so you're exactly right. Mine doesn't follow the the hero's journey. Precisely, it's pretty doggone close. But I've also added these Two steps within mine that are the function steps for every story. So every time we hear a story short little anecdote long story, whatever, there's always a moral to it. Aesop fables. There are moral to it, you know, I mean, pretty much anything has a moral. And what I'm talking about there is how do you connect your shared beliefs and values, with your audiences, beliefs and values? And that's through your purpose? What does your brand stand for? Beyond just making money? And so that is the moral of the story. And I asked people when you're using the story cycle system and telling a long form story of some sort long form to me, is anything over three to five minutes, you know, or you're building your brand platform? Ask yourself, okay, so what does this story say about you what you believe in value? How does it illustrate your beliefs and values, so that your audience who is the centre of the story, the people you're really trying to connect with, can say, you know, part, I believe in that too, or I value that too. We're of like mine there, and I, I appreciate your purpose in life, and therefore, I'm willing to buy into your story. And then that last chapter, chapter 10, is called ritual because we tell stories for no other reason than to connect our rules with someone else's world we want them to buy into our way of thinking or our product or service or whatever. And so ritual is your CTA, your call to action? How do you get people to that have never heard of your brand. Step number one, you tell them take him through the story cycle system, about about your brand, and brand, and brand awareness. They're like, wow, Park, I really like what you have to sell here I'm buying. Now they're into brand adoption, you start the whole story cycle process all over again, because it is a spiral. So while the hero's journey is a circle, it starts and ends in the hero's ordinary world, the story cycle system is a spiral. It's a virtuous cycle, because every time you go through it, you have expanding customer engagement, that is the goal. So the first spiral of brand awareness, they just hear about you, and you take them through your story cycle system. Alright, they buy into its brand adoption, and now starts all over again, your backstory changes a little bit, because they are now bought in and you take them through the process, you take them through the journey of experiencing your brand for the very first time, you want to get them to brand appreciation, which is the third revolution of the story cycle system, because now they have brand appreciation, you're delivering on the promises you make in your storytelling, and they are happily coming back for more and repeat business. They are ritualizing your product or service in their life. And by the way, Francisco they're starting to tell their friends about it. So there they are. ritualizing your own story, they are pushing it out and sharing your story with their world, which by the way, is the most powerful form of advertising, there is free word of mouth marketing. That's why I intentionally put the last two chapters in there moral after going through your whole brand story, what is it obvious that to you that you stand for in the hearts of minds of customers, because if you don't stand for something, you won't stand out, and then how you incorporate your story with their story so that you can ritualize the use of your product or service.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:24

And it's an interesting concept, even outside the way you use it just as idea of what exactly you're doing. That builds out parts on the product being used. What are you doing that now becomes part of the customer's daily lives and I'm failing on the examples now but I think you had some interesting ones in, in your book about, I'm trying to remember what it was but about some companies that ask you to do things. And they just they I like the idea of you know, it doesn't matter if it's a podcast you listen to or anything you're buying or something you're watching where they where they have a bit of an ask and then people see you do that and go Why are you doing that? Oh, it's a silly thing. It's this podcast I listen to and he asks the guy I asked him to do that I just like that, that idea of the sort of spreading out into the world in a very organic way. Yeah,


Park Howell 34:19

hook them into your lives. Well, you know, a good example of a ritual is Starbucks. Starbucks does such a beautiful job of getting people to roll in, you know, first thing in the morning before before work or they have that little coffee klatch and whatever. Now of course, the caffeine helps you build that ritual to with its addictive nature, but they have ritual built in to you know, daily life for millions and millions of people around the world. Just one example of it. Can you think of a product or service Francisco that you have to go to that you realise that you've got it ritualised in your life?


Francisco Mahfuz 34:59

I'm trying to think Think of something that is outside of the, of the normal usage of the product. But but you know, now since I started recording the podcast, I have found myself often talking about squad cast, which is what I used to record. Without any production, they have an affiliate programme that I probably should sign up for. But but every time I talk to someone about about podcasting and the usual problems you have with, I don't make seeing and quality and internet connections not being patchy, I find myself talking about my experience with the product and why I like it, and why they should give it a go, which is not quite exactly what we're talking about. But you know, they're getting a lot of advertising work out of me for no, for no cost. So far. I should look up that affiliate programme again,


Park Howell 35:52

I use squad cast as well. And it came to me through a friend that recommended it to me over the summer. And I like it just like he said, I like it too. The quality is just sensational. And I talk about it all the time. So you and I are in lockstep there and squad cast is a fan of it. I think I have signed up for an affiliate programme. I'm just not sure anybody's clicked on it yet. Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 36:13

yeah. Again, it's one of those things where I don't I mean, I wouldn't mind. I don't mind getting paid for something that I'm genuinely promoting. But at the same time, there's something I enjoy about the fact that I'm doing it because I like it, it has nothing to do with, wow, by the way I get paid if you if you if you check it out, no, I just like it, I just, I have had the superior customer experience and trying to pass that on. And I think that's, that's where the real power is they've, if you find out about the programme, and then you start doing it because they pay you show. But if you're doing it just because you like the service so much, I think that's when you really wet that's when you're in the sweet spot of of word of mouth.


Park Howell 36:57

Without a doubt. A lot of people might be asking, you know, so Alright, so you've got a good product like squad cast, do they really need to tell a story? Can't they just, you know, show up, give their stuff and you're naturally going to buy it and share it? And my answer is no. And the reason being is we live in a time of abundance. You know, capitalism, certainly here in America is based on scarcity. But we don't really have scarcity. And we might have scarcity of leadership at the moment in America. But other than that in our capital markets, none of us have scarcity. We are all competing against abundance of competition. And most of the competition is out there screaming and hollering and say Look at me, by me by me. They're not using story. They're not using that natural way to hook into our limbic system and get our selves to pay attention. And, therefore is a great way to do that. And the reason being Francisco is why they don't do it is they leave out the middle of the story. What problem are you actually solving. People like to show up, say, Hey, we're squat gassed. And you know, we're this great online platform. And as everybody loves it, you want to buy something, they don't talk about the problems with like Zen caster, which also has stellar audio quality, but is unreliable, you don't know as at least in my experience, when is it going to cut out on you and so forth, or zoom, which is very reliable, but doesn't have very great audio quality. And so it's finding and amplifying that pain. And I mentioned in brand B which we sales is all about, find the hurt, amplify the pain in heal the wound, which by the way is three act structure of finding the hurt is setting the context for your story. Now amplify that pain through the problem, and then solve it heal thy wound with your solution, I get why people


Francisco Mahfuz 38:45

are resistant to the idea of telling stories as such, but the not using some type of story structure just seems to miss the point entirely of how marketing works effectively. Because if, again, if you just started as, as you know, podcast to stick with the example we're talking about, you might not have even realised that the problem you've had with a Zen caster is a problem that a lot of people have with some caster. So if if squad cast starts their ads by referring to you know, you know, when you're in that great podcast interview that you took ages to get the guest on and prepare in then your zen caster connection just goes you're not alone in that you know most about that experience before. Therefore, it is a try you tried something new, or whatever, right? And it just works. It's just a very basic way to get an idea across. And if people just understood that, you know, don't you don't want to tell a story as such. Don't do that. But but the structure itself is is just a much clearer way of communicating often enough And something else that I think is really interesting in the way you approach this work is that there's at least one other company that's reasonably well known that that has a branding or messaging system based on the hero's journey and story brands. But their approach is completely different than yours in that they do not want to be the agency or do any agency type work. So they're only focused on the education. Whereas you actually do that work. You're not just teaching people how to do it, you actually do it for them, if they if they want to hire you for that. I guess that it's because of your background, that was just the most natural way of going about it, right?


Park Howell 40:42

Yeah, the difference between story brand and what I do is, is story brand is a really great programme. But it's a bit of a misnomer, because it doesn't actually work on your brand. It's more of a messaging marketing platform, so that you can have a more powerful homepage, essentially. And it's really good. You know, Donald Miller is not a brand or a marketer has never been in that world. He's a writer. I mean, they're really great writer, I love his books. And in fact, I went to one of his programmes, one of the very first programmes he ever did, just talking about his books, and whatever, back in 2008, or nine in Portland, and it was before he got into story brand. And while it was while I was developing my story cycle system, and I wrote an article, after coming out of that, saying, you know, I love what he's doing with his books. And it's just even more reason why the story cycle works. And you know, it's just adding to my knowledge, and my, well, it was a couple years after that, that he then came up with story brand, I thought, that's interesting. Here's a writer who's never been in the branding marketing world saw a need and just took what he knew about writing and applied it to business, typically, for small business, sales and marketing. Mine is a much deeper dive into what does your brand truly stand for? And how do you communicate it internally, to your people externally, to your customers, to your stakeholders, shareholders. And it is a much deeper dive into that that's, that's why I get hired over storebrand people just want a really good website. And effective homepage story brands a terrific way to go. And he does use elements of the story of the hero's journey, not quite to the depth that I have done in the business of story. That is the the main difference I get compared to them a lot, then I just like to clarify that theirs is a marketing thing. Mine is a brand story creation thing to build a stronger company around.


Francisco Mahfuz 42:41

Yeah, and it is very interesting, because you mentioned the brand word as the part of the misnomer. And you could even argue that story is part of the misnomer. I know someone who was trained as a story brand guide. And she says that Donald Miller would would start their workshops, which is no they normally teach workshops. And he says, If there's anyone in here that knows anything about story Shut up. I don't want to hear it is just gonna confuse everyone. Those say it, give it to yourself.


Park Howell 43:14

Yeah, he's a good guy. He does really good work and the work they've done over at story brand.


Francisco Mahfuz 43:19

I had JJ on the show. And Jeju Peterson who works with Donald. And he said that, and I asked him, you know, you never actually teach people to tell when your story is right isn't too difficult. Most people are not going to get that right. We just want to do this one thing. Well, in the works for us, we don't want to go into all the complexity and all the depth that you can go with story. It is I find it very amusing because both of them are big story guys. Like he has a PhD in story and communication. And Donald Miller is a you know, very popular writer. But it's interesting, because on the face of it, you guys do the same thing. If if you read the books or look into it, like I've done, these are small worlds apart.


Park Howell 44:02

Yeah. And and you know, I think that's the curse of being a PhD in any one subject. So JJ says it's too difficult. People can't tell stories, and I call BS on that. We are storytelling animals. We are intuitively, storytellers now, doesn't mean we're intuitively good storytellers. But if you just use some simple little frameworks, I call it the Applied Science, the and button therefore the five primal elements of story or for that longer, more epic, you know, brand story narrative, the story cycle system that takes you by the hand and helped you plug in your scenes to tell your stories and these aren't. These aren't stories you're making up? These are true stories about the real world impact you make in people's lives. Again, I said your product or service is not about what you make, but what you make happen in people's lives. We are all a goldmine. stories that are sitting on Earth. That could be the most powerful marketing you have ever done in your life that becomes extraordinarily shareable. So you develop that word of mouth marketing. So I like to push back when I hear people say, Oh, it's too difficult, they'll never get it. Really smart on story brands part focus on that one thing that one thing is going to get you a homepage. I believe we're in this,


Francisco Mahfuz 45:26

to be fair, to be fair to JJ, I might, I might just slightly mischaracterize what he said. And he said was, given the focus they have and the approach they take, teaching people how to tell stories as a marketing tool, or a sales to would be too difficult for them to achieve. I think that's more what he meant, then then different, but but I want to pick up on something you just said, because this is something I've also seen you do. And I think it's really interesting, because the biggest, the biggest, the most common thing that anyone that teaches storytelling hears from most people is that moan of like, but I don't have any stories. We're gonna whiny voice. And I've seen you have a bit of a recipe for, for how, you know, this is how you find the easiest way to find some stories. And I think you talked about thinking of three moments that shaped you. Yeah,


Park Howell 46:22

and I did a TED video on this, if any of your listeners would like to see it a few years ago, it's called TEDx, Gilbert, gi l d, e r t. And it was, my whole talk was about stop looking for your story and start finding your scenes, those moments that have shaped who you are today. And I think what the trap that people fall into is they think they have to have this big epic story that people are going to be interested in. When as Sean Callahan has demonstrated anecdote, no, it's those small little stories or small little scenes that really enable you to connect with people. So you go back. And sometimes I'll marching back from let's just go to college. Tell me about a time when your curiosity took you to some place that was surprising that completely engaged you. And take me to that one moment in time, that it all kind of changed your perspective. By the way, I think it's important at this point, Francisco's to talk about that these stories are always about a moment, you had the lead up to the moment you have the but this action took place. And then this surprise came out of it. And you had this aha, therefore moment that brings it all full circle for you. And what is really fascinating to me is the word moment is a derivative of the Latin word for momentum, which to me is kind of funny, because a moment seems like it's a time stuck in a place. Second time, momentum takes you on a journey. And isn't that what we do with the story is we want to take people on a journey, we want to build momentum through our messaging to get them there. And you do that by focusing on a moment. So think about a moment in time maybe in college, that that has shaped who you are today, then go back a little bit earlier, maybe in high school or pre High School. It's something that happened to you that shaped who you are today, and then go back when you were very young man or woman, a little boy or girl, something that struck you that shaped who you are today, for instance, Francisco I was a little kid, and I must have been maybe in the first or second grade and we were out visiting our grandpa and grandma at a place called Lake glider in Minnesota. Small little lake cabin. They had their there were seven of us kids and we were out there. And one day my grandma and Mabel sat down to this piano and I as a little kid didn't quite recognise didn't know what this thing was she was sitting down to and she just started playing some ragtime music. And I stood there, there fixated, I thought it was magic. I thought how could this old lady sit down to this piece of furniture and make this marvellous music and I knew right then that I would play the piano. So by the time third grade came around my mom, dad got me a pat piano. I studied it, I started writing my own music. I went on to Washington State University, I got a degree in music composition and theory also got a degree in communications because I figured I could make a living in communications maybe not as a music composer. But everything I've learned in a composition theory of a song goes into what I understand about the composition and theory in rhythm and tone and pace of a story. But I can take you back to that moment in time standing next to my grandma Mabel playing the piano for the very first time that I heard her and said that is what I'm going to do. I'll small point in time that has shaped who I am today.


Francisco Mahfuz 49:48

I love the moment idea and this is something I I think I might even talk to Sean about briefly is that I have recently started teaching at an MBA he In Barcelona, and without a shadow of a doubt, the moment was the most difficult thing to get people to, to always put into the story. And then as I hammer that over and over with them, they would tell these three minute stories. And I would ask the group, was there a moment there? And so we will go, Yep, yeah. And without, without fail, those were always very good stories. And when there wasn't a moment there, I can't quite remember if there was any, any story where we listened to it really liked it gave it really positive feedback. It is like the moments I just don't think it ever happened. And the theory that I need to develop further is that that is what makes a story enjoyable, because it just feels like real life. And when it feels like real life, it's fulfilling, the goal was story was originally evolved to perform, which is you're getting a piece of your real life experience and getting into my hands. But if the moments not there, is just not really doing what it's meant to be doing. And then there's still plenty of value to it, but not as much.


Park Howell 51:13

And I think the reason why it works Francisco in all my research on it, is we being storytelling monkeys, essentially, we live vicariously through the tales that we hear. As Lisa crone wrote in her wonderful book called Wired for Story. She says, you know, we live vicariously through the heroes and the stories we read and watch, so that we can try on their trouble, just to see what we would do in case that ever happens to us. And we get to do that from the safety of our easy chair. So stories are learning tools are nothing more than learning vehicles. And when you can tell a story about a moment in time. It's specific, it's singular, it makes it very easy for our brain to digest. And it is doing it because in the backs of our minds and our limbic system, I am just simply learning what did Francisco go through that? And how would I get through that successfully to learn what I would do in case that ever happens to me, that is always based around a moment in time and a true story well told.


Francisco Mahfuz 52:18

Now, just before we as we get close to the end of the time we had, I just don't pick a bone with you about your book, right? I love it. I did not read the book in the order that it was written. Because as we as I started, and I think it was, at some point in chapter one, you say, by the way, if you're interested in my personal story, go to appendix one. So I was like, Well, of course, I'm going to read this. Now, I'm not going to read this at the end of the book. So when there was a minor bone there, which is why would you not make us all knowing like you a lot more through your story before you did everything else. But that's not even it. There was a point in your story in your personal story where you are at the lowest point of your life, supposedly, and then you are in the middle of the road, in there is a cologne? In what is it an A motorcycle or something, a bicycle, a bicycle, a clown in a bicycle in the middle of the road. So I read that I said, Why is this not the first page of the book, I would have had that as the cover of the book. The colonial device, in the middle of the road all the way at the end of your book?


Park Howell 53:35

Well, it's a little jam. And I think you said it right up top when you asked me this question with your bone picking here, Francis, because you said why don't you make me like you right at the very beginning. And I thought, I can't make you like me. And I did actually have my origin story at the beginning. And I thought to myself, I don't know, if the busy mind, the time strapped executive is going to take the time and or care about my having to wade through my origin story at the beginning before they can get to the tools that you can actually use. And you know, in the very beginning of the book two, I said, feel free to jump around, or feel free to read just chapter one and do nothing more you will get value out of this book just from chapter one. But it's a compounding value that goes through and I felt it might be more interesting just to like put my origin story at the back. If you're really curious how this all came about. If you have any doubt in the process in any way, then by all means go to the origin story because I demonstrate how it all came together, starting with my darkest moments out in the middle of the cotton fields in Buckeye, Arizona, where literally out of nowhere, a clown comes you know riding through is kind of a metaphor, I believe is my universe saying Park you're taking yourself way too seriously, you know, that sort of thing. That's why I did that. I was originally At the beginning of the book and working with my editor publisher, I just, I even asked him, I said, you know, Glenn, I'm thinking, I want to move this to the back of the book instead of the front. And he said, No, he asked me why. And I explained why. And he goes, You know, I think that's actually a really good idea. So it becomes a little bit of a treasure in the back of the book for those of you interested in reading the origin story.


Francisco Mahfuz 55:22

Yeah, no. And I can see how that from from the flow of the book, it's not necessary at any at any stage. But one thing that I have is, I'm glad I jumped in read that first. Because one way I have a figuring out if a storytelling book is going to be any good, is can they actually tell a story? interesting trivia basic criteria, right? Yeah. But surprisingly, I have read some, some very well known storytelling books that shall remain unnamed. And I didn't write down a single story from those books. And whereas there's books that I'm going through it and just my notes are filling up with like, I'm gonna tell this one until that one. And in that origin story, because I think you broke it down into the stamps. That origin story has the best part of like seven or eight individual stories that work on their own. So So yeah, no, I just love the clown. i The clown has to appear in your merchandise at some point. It was just such a waste of, of a cosmic sign, not


Park Howell 56:31

the cosmic guy, that's for sure. All right, well, I'm glad you mentioned that I will definitely do that. And you'll notice maybe in that origin story and really throughout the book, but the origin story in particular is broken down. I use the hero's journey as my chapter points in the the origin story so I'm telling you, my hero's journey and how it plays out while I'm hacking the story cycle system of how it works while using the five primal elements of story in the all the little anecdotal stories that make up that overall narrative art and I use the abt throughout where you can see I'm setting up my next point by first stating and abt around it then telling a story and taking you to a moment in time where everything changed for me for positive or for worse. And and so I really wanted to model everything that I teach in not only the telling of that story, but then when you get into the 10 chapters of the story cycle system to see it appear again there in my customer stories and clients stories and the impact stories that I tell but your


Francisco Mahfuz 57:39

your book, Brenda witchery is now out everywhere, I guess right? Yeah,


Park Howell 57:44

Amazon and Apple books I'm in the throes of creating an audio version of it I really got to get going on that but right now you can get a print and Kindle version on Amazon or go to Apple books and download it there too.


Francisco Mahfuz 57:56

And the and the way your podcasts the business of story, that's also everywhere, right. For a while couldn't find it on Apple podcasts for some reason, but it seems to be back. Yeah,


Park Howell 58:07

now you can find businesses story anywhere and everywhere been around for five years were among the top 10% of downloaded podcasts in the world we have that kind of listenership which makes me really happy because I get to interview interesting people every week and we put a new show out every Monday.


Francisco Mahfuz 58:25

Okay, perfect. So if anyone wants you know, for the podcast and the book or not are not enough, where else do they go to find more about the work you do?


Park Howell 58:34

Yeah, go to businesses. story.com I've got your blog there with boy now 1000s of articles on how to tell stories, there's tools, tips,


Francisco Mahfuz 58:44

techniques, where you have to live up to that industrial industrials name tag.


Park Howell 58:48

Well, that's exactly right. Believe me, that's why I'm up at five in the morning here in Phoenix, Arizona, interviewing you are interviewing with you from my kitchen.


Francisco Mahfuz 58:57

You can slack off otherwise your brand.


Park Howell 59:01

It's a self fulfilling prophecy. I've got to be the most industrious not the laziest storyteller in the world. There's plenty of those out there. I want to be the most industrious.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:13

Thank you very much for your time today. This was great.


Park Howell 59:16

Francisco. Thank you so much for having me on your show. I'm honoured. Alright, everybody.


Francisco Mahfuz 59:20

Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.


I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find this. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



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