The art of storytelling and the “power of the narrative”

Trump mastered a “central truth of persuasion” … Hillary didn’t.


In my courses, I emphasize that pitches (think: Powerpoint decks) should be organized around storylines with smooth-flowing logic that is sufficiently compelling to lead the audience to an inescapable conclusion.

For many students, that notion doesn’t come naturally, especially since we typically think about stories in a cultural frame (movies, books, music) … not business communications..

Not only are storylines important in business communications, they are critical in political campaigns.

Just ask Mark McKinnon.

He’s a former Bush marketing adviser who followed around all of the candidates for a Showtime series called (appropriately) “The Circus”.

After 18 months on the campaign trail, McKinnon concluded:


More specifically, McKinnon says:

Voters are attracted to candidates who lay out a storyline.

Losing campaigns communicate unconnected streams of information, ideas, and speeches.

Winning campaigns create a narrative architecture that ties it all together into something meaningful and coherent.

Trump told a story.

Hillary didn’t.

So, how to tell a good story?


According to McKinnon, to tell a good story….

    1. Identify a threat and/or an opportunity.
    2. Establish victims of the threat or denied opportunity.
    3. Suggest villains that impose the threat or deny the opportunity.
    4. Propose solutions.
    5. Reveal the hero.


McKinnon observes that Trump applied this formula for good storytelling:

He identified a threat: outside forces trying to change the way we live.

And an opportunity: make America great again.

He established victims: blue-collar workers who have lost jobs or experienced a declining standard of living.

He suggested villains: Mexican immigrants, China, establishment elites.

He proposed solutions: build a wall, tear up unfair trade deals.

And the hero was revealed, Donald Trump.

The rest – as they say – is history.

And, it’s a  lesson to all of us when we’re crafting our pitches …



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One Response to “The art of storytelling and the “power of the narrative””

  1. TTK Says:

    Even if she got 2,000,000 more votes?

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