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How Data Works to Back Powerful Stories with Keith Quesenberry

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A lot of great information about story telling. It is hard to pick one episode, they are all good!


I recently came across Park Howell's excellent podcast. I love how he weaves in his personal stories with the interviews of his guests. If you are involved with sales or marketing for your business definitely check out this show.


Keith Quesenberry, author, researcher, and professor of social media, joins the podcast to share his groundbreaking research on the science that backs the power of story.

Keith Quesenberry - Instagram

The Man Behind the Research

Keith Quesenberry has over twenty years of experience as an award-winning Associate Creative Director and copywriter. He has done some amazing research on how story works in our lives and how advertisers, marketers, and brand strategists can implement it.
Keith’s new book, Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution will be released later in October.

The Research Behind the Story

Keith began his career crafting and overseeing the creation of stories for ad agencies. As he transitioned to education, he found that no one could quite identify what made the good spots good and what made the bad ones flop; everyone was guessing. So Keith decided to do the research to find out.
He hypothesized that some form of story structure existed, either consciously or unconsciously in these winning ad spots, and he set out to prove it.
If you’ve been following our podcast, the results may not surprise you. Keith was able to trace the really great ads’ inceptions to a five act story structure (similar to Shakespeare’s five act plays): Freytag’s Pyramid.
With roots in Aristotle’s Poetics, Freytag’s Pyramid is a tri-corner, visual representation of story:

  • Exposition: The introduction of location, background, and characters.
  • Rising Action: Characters begin to interact with one another; something happens in the environment. The story starts moving forward.
  • Climax: The rising action culminates to a point where you don’t know what’s going to happen next. A decision has to be made. It could go very well or it could go poorly for the main characters.
  • Falling Action: All the action that happens after the climax, whether it was good or bad.
  • Dénouement: The resolution; all loose ends are tied up.

How can we go further and apply storytelling to the board room?
We are all innate storytellers, we simply have to flex the storytelling muscle to implement it in our work.
Want more advice and access to Keith’s research? Listen to this episode and head on over the

 In This Episode

  • Why Freytag’s Pyramid matters
  • Three, five, and ten act story structures
  • Super Bowl ads; what makes them fly or flop?
  • The research that proves why storytelling is such a powerful business tool


Quotes From This Episode

“Story is so powerful because we naturally live one everyday, for the most part unconsciously. If brands come out with ‘50% off, this weekend only’, it’s all sort of gratuitous or banal and our subconscious is like, ‘Dude, where’s the story? Dude, you got to give me some conflict here so I can learn something with whatever you’re telling me.’ ” —@Kquesen
“In terms of commercials, the more completely the story was told, the higher the average rating, the more views online—which generated online buzz in other aspects.” —@Kquesen [highlight to tweet]
“We all know this as human beings because we’re the ones who are attracted to stories. It’s a simple structure. We tell stories everyday—when you call up your friend or you run into someone at the store. You’re telling stories all the time. And you’re intrigued by them and you listen.” —@Kquesen
“For some reason when we go to the office, we change perspective from what we know we like as a person to, ‘Well this is business and we have to be rational’ ”. —@Kquesen
“How many horrible meetings have you sat through that make you go to sleep? There’s probably a great story there; the person’s not telling it.” —@Kquesen [highlight to tweet]


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