How to make your company as exciting as a holly/bollywood blockbuster? ABT Storification is the script

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

In the SPEAK|pr program that stands for Storification, Personalisation, Engagement, Amplification, and Knowing, storification or digital storification can lead to interviews, and it is all about getting the narrative right for the audience. 

The Business of Story is a podcast by American Park Howell, who also wrote a book entitled Brand Bewitchery. On his podcast, Park talks about what really makes a narrative, what makes a public relations pitch work, and what makes one not work, what makes a press release appealing and not appealing. One of the guests, Candice Frazer, who works for company called TTI Success Insights, says that at TTI Success Insights, they have developed a personality test based on the original German psychology theories by Eduard Spranger. In 1928, Spranger wrote a book entitled Types of Men where he identifies six universal attitudes and value systems through which individuals will observe and experience life. This is important is because as business build their story and narrative, it’s going to be listened to in different ways depending on the life story evaluation and the different attitudes that people have to life. Candice shared that in their company, they found that the same words will have different reactions for different people. This is significant when it comes to creating public relations for interviews and for stories, because the driving forces which motivate and engage an individual in work and life will naturally condition the words that they are listening for in the story, article, or interview. 

12 driving forces and 3 dimensions of thought

In their research, TTI Success Insights identified 12 driving forces. They say that people are instinctive or intellectual, and that’s their knowledge driver. They can be selfless or resourceful; that’s their utility. They could be objective or harmonious; that’s about their surroundings. They can be intentional or altruistic in how they feel about others. They could be collaborative or commanding, which is their attitude to power. They can be receptive or structured, which are the methodologies that they might adopt in life. Interestingly enough, through these six forces that Eduard Spranger had identified of knowledge, utility, surrounding, others, power, and methodologies, this is the construct by which all audiences or all of us listen to stories and information.

The next interesting part of TTI’s research is this idea of acumen, which is viewed as the indicator of the lens that people will use to filter information. It will then determine how people process the events, stories, or articles they read from a certain standpoint. Therefore, it will affect the way stories are told based on the language and words used. They identify three dimensions of thought: people are intrinsic, extrinsic, and systemic. Their feeling is intrinsic, their doing is extrinsic, and their thinking is systemic.

Drawing on research from the 1920s from a German psychologist, at TTI Success Insights, they believe that each and every person will respond differently can be categorised according to how they view the world and what’s important to them. Candice explained that the language used changes. For instance, when talking to people that are worried about their feelings, more emotional words could be used. When talking to people who are practical, more extrinsic or doing words would be appropriate. When talking to people that are more worried about systems and processes, procedure, formula, and rules-based language would be best. The reason then that stories become important is because these stories should touch any and all groups of people despite their different profiles and backgrounds.


In SPEAK|pr, after Storification is Personalisation, and this looks at the audience you will speak to. Thinking about how people are going to receive the information is often as important as the information that will be shared, and stories then are a way of creating a common narrative and a medium for individuals to take the language and translate it into their own. Stories get one to buy into something bigger, a higher purpose, and that’s why advertising that is evocative of a place, feeling, or result creates an impact. Stories create narratives around brands and companies and are also the reason why, when looking at the location of the stories, they need to be in different channels.

For instance, Instagram targets a generally younger audience, the 25- to 35-year-old demographic, whereas on a platform like SlideShare or LinkedIn, it’s for people looking to share and exchange knowledge and business ideas. Not only is the file size different on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn in terms of the graphic size, but also the people and the way they’re going to accept information varies, necessitating the need for content that is personalised and fitting for both the audience and the medium. 

And, But, Therefore

On the Business of Story, they also talk about ABT which is a simple yet powerful process developed by Randy Olson. He says in one of his talks on TED that most executives communicate and care but bore. The opposite, then, is to use this ABT narrative framework, which he suggests is the framework for all great Hollywood stories. This is the framework to make audiences and customers sit up, listen, and not get bored. In the framework, A is for “And,” which is what people want; this is the broad vision. B is “But,” and this is the current state that people are in. The T is “Therefore,” and this is why the business wants the audinece to them in their vision of executing their strategy.

If we start thinking of your own company story rather than your product or balance sheet or corporate ethics, the organisational goals will seem approachable with the paradigm that the audience also understands, because as mentioned, different audience groups will interpret information in different kinds of ways. The goal, then, is to create a focused story that the audience can take on board, get into the desired state of mind, and then get them to want to buy into doing that with us. Some people now are writing about having emotion, logic, and fear. The emotion is, “This is what I want you to believe. Wouldn’t it be great if…?,” “Imagine if…,” “Won’t you love it when…, ” and the logic is because these facts mean that you can or cannot. The fear is, “If we don’t change this, if we don’t do that, if you don’t do this with me, this will happen.”

SPEAK|pr talks about the importance not of just having messages, but also of having data to back those up. A story is, in essence, the basis of the media pitch. Interviews are the business’ chance to share a story with the audience, and the best way of doing that is to share the vision, possibly through the And, But, Therefore frameowrk. As an example, “The study of ice sheet melting is a multidisciplinary game, AND we know that multidisciplinary studies require a unified approach, BUT this isn’t happening for ice melting because of the loose coordination of disparate bodies. THEREFORE, we’re creating a gateway that unifies all researchers in one place.” Another example from the Randy Olson TED Talk is, “Online citizen science has been around for most of the 21st century, AND it’s benefited thousands of researchers, BUT setting up an online citizen science project is expensive and time-consuming. THEREFORE, the zooniverse has built a free and open platform that enables anyone to build a project quickly.” Getting more public relations traction is possibly by looking at stories. So, if you’re not getting interviews, it might be because you’re not sharing a concise and compelling story with data to illustrate the nature of the problem.

The 80-20 principle

The challenge in public relations and in storification is to define the narrative, the one thing that’s going to be the hook. In the book The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results written by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, it comes back to the old Pareto principle that 20% of the effort will derive 80% of the results. Different personality types will receive information and be stimulated by information differently, so part of storification is about making the narrative broad enough to be meaningful, but narrow enough to get to that group of people who together will find the And, But, Therefore compelling enough to make change. The next step would be finding the medium or channel that addresses that particular audience, so that when defining the problem the business can solve, the people listening are receptive to it, then forming the basis for your public relations. Basically, start with PR by being focused on the problem and the obstacle, and then on the vision for the solution. 

Too often, in PR, people start with, “We have launched this. We are opening this,” focusing on themselves and not the audience. They also speak in their own language, rather than thinking about which language is going to be best received by their audience. As the Spranger research shows, there are six different views of the world, and keeping the audience in mind and how they interpret information, it can change the language used in pitches, interviews, articles, and press releases. Doing this will hopefully result in more public relations coverage and ultimately more interest in the business.


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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