Storytelling checklist

What’s your audience getting out of your content?

Ana Andjelic
3 min readJul 28, 2023

When telling stories, brands aim for the mass audience. In their narrative strategy, they also consider mostly what they want to say and how. Motivations and goals of the audience (what the audience wants to get out of the story) are often hidden behind its demographics.

Audience motivations and goals are critical when defining a story’s unique selling proposition. Seemingly homogenous audience often has different goals when engaging with content, and often different motivations for doing so (some are looking to learn, others to be entertained, yet others to have material that powers their social connection with others).

Here is the approach that ensures that the same story addresses multiple motivational scenarios. To access it, please select one of the paid options below.

Late Virgil Abloh famously distinguished between “purists” and “tourists,” claiming that his designs speak to both. In Abloh’s approach, “purists” are cultural aficionados, knowledgeable connoisseurs and everyone with a refined taste to recognize deep-cut references. “Tourists” are interested in trends, are not aware of references, and their relationship with brands and culture can best be described as “stopping by.” Virgil’s storytelling appealed to them both.

To this dichotomy, I added a third category, “students,” to capture motivations of those who actively want to move from being tourists to being purists. They are novices wanting to learn, refine their taste and accumulate their knowledge.

To reach all three audiences, stories need to have the following:

Visual clarity. A good online narrative is visually clear; in total, it needs to immediately establish a brand’s visual language through a mix of substance, lightness, and surprise that has the function of staving off boredom.

Beyond substance, lightness and surprise, there’s a mix of timeliness (how much is this story relevant to the culture today?) and timelessness (how much will this story mean to people in a hundred years?)

Practical skills. Can your story be viewed as a manual to get better at styling, cooking, decoration, travel … ? Does it tell your audience where to look, what to do to improve their skillset or mindset or lifestyle?

Life lessons. Does your story offer wisdom and share learnings? Does it contain a life advice, an experience, or knowledge that can be accumulated over the course of the lifetime? Are there any transferable insights applicable to the audience context?

Belonging. Does your story provide emotional connection, memes, identification and empathy that fosters belonging among your audience? Is there a community that makes its members feel passionate about the story? What are the shared wins?

Flexibility. Story should be easily told as a long-form content that’s immersive enough to deliver a brand message and robust enough to be widely shared in the shorter chunks on social media that inform and inspire.

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Ana Andjelic

Brand Executive. Author of “The Business of Aspiration.” Doctor of Sociology. Writer of “Sociology of Business.” Forbes most influential CMO.