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Why Your Corporate Stories Need an Actual Human Protagonist
image-49 (Demo)
image-50 (Demo)

By Brianna Blacet, Ghost-in-Chief, Lead Copywriter

I have worked as a technology marketer in Silicon Valley for over a decade. I’ve created a boatload of product presentations, blogs, executive communications, ads, landing pages, emails, white papers, eBooks, datasheets, videos, social-media posts, and roughly five million web pages (I may be exaggerating on that last one…but only by a little).

During that time, I’ve seen the same critical error over and over again: we keep trying to sell products. Speeds and feeds. Features.

The problem is that customers—who are actual humans, not to be confused with flat 2D personas—don’t buy products. They buy the way they think a product will make them feel.

Humans have problems. They are afraid to make mistakes. They want to feel confident in their choices. They encounter thorny internal politics. They’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of products on the market and are slow to trust the people hawking them. They want to buy products that make them heroes in the eyes of their bosses.

You can easily spend millions of dollars creating, syndicating, and marketing content. But if you overlook the “hero factor” that actually converts prospects, you’ve poured a whole lot of it down the drain.

Ask any marketer in 2023 how to stir the hearts and wallets of customers. With a smug look on their face, they’ll say “stories.” But 99% of the time, these folks are actually referring to narratives.

There’s nothing wrong with a tight, finely crafted narrative. But despite what my former manager thinks (I hope he’s not reading this!), a narrative is not a story and it won’t evoke the same emotion that a real story will. And as I’ve mentioned, we’re in the emotion business, not the product business.

What’s the difference between a narrative and a story? A human protagonist.

In my storytelling workshops, I demonstrate the difference between a narrative and a story by telling a deconstructed story. I start off with a fact. A compelling one, but just a fact, nonetheless. Next, I add a group of humans to the narrative. It ups the impact a little. Finally, I zoom in on an individual in that group. Someone relatable—a hero. And, bam! It becomes a story that provokes emotion and makes participants care. That’s the magic of stories.

Here’s an example:

The fact: I tell my kid not to go into the woods behind our house because there are wolves back there. He says “yeah, yeah, mom” without taking his eyes off the video game he’s playing and waves me away.

The fact, augmented by a group of humans: I tell my kid, “Don’t go into the woods behind our house because there are 10 wolf attacks back there every year.” He looks up with a little concern …then goes right back to playing his game.

The fact, augmented by an actual protagonist: I tell my kid, “A 5th grader from your school was eaten by a wolf last week in the woods behind the house. He fought bravely. There was blood everywhere. But despite his best efforts, he lost the fight.” The kid actually pauses his game and looks up at me, slack-jawed and horrified. Then I tell him to stay the f-k out of the woods. He, with teary eyes, agrees, and means it.

(Note: my actual kid is grown and there are no wolves behind my house.)

Here’s why it makes a difference: #neuroscience

When you introduce a specific character or protagonist that your audience/readers can relate to, it kicks off a process called “mirroring” in their brains. It’s the, “hey, that person is like me” effect. It’s accompanied by a surge of oxytocin (the hormone that bonds babies to their mothers). It’s like glue.

Once you’ve successfully created this bond, you tell your story. Thus begins a process called “coupling,” where the association between the action of the story is coupled with the protagonist the listener has identified with. This is where the real power kicks in. If I tell you a great story about how I almost died skydiving, your brain will process the action as though you were actually experiencing it yourself…especially if you’ve planned a skydiving adventure for the upcoming weekend.

This is why stories are so much more impactful than data sheets. If you choose the right protagonist, then tell a good story, your prospect will CARE.

Why this is even more important in technology

If you think wolves in the back of your house are an abstract concept to a 10-year-old, try talking about security software to almost anyone. Without a good story, your customer hears, “It’s critical to protect your CI/CD blah-be-de-blah…look at this guy’s TIE…I think I’ll order a pizza for dinner….Kubernetes cluster.”

In contrast, if you tell the story about a customer just like the one you’re talking to and explain how she lost a ton of data and got fired because they didn’t protect their CI/CD pipeline, all eyes are on you. Your customer starts thinking, “uh-oh, is my pipeline secure? Am I scanning my workloads in production? OMG, I can’t get fired! My kids’ private school-tuition is due!”

Technology *can* be dry and boring. But it doesn’t have to be. If you integrate the elements of a good story, your prospects will remember you (or your website or your video, etc.), be more likely to trust you, and sign the check.

I want everyone who has read to the end of this blog to be wildly successful. I want you to preach the technology gospel far and wide and close as many deals as you can. Technology is all about solving human problems. So, let’s put the humans back into our stories of technology.

If you want to learn more about creating stories that sell (or have me write one for you), click here or email me at Until then, stay out of the woods!

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