Tuesday 01 November 2016, Bristol

David Sloly is a specialist in behavioural economics and psychology, with a background in both journalism and advertising who previously worked for BBC and Google.

How stories influence decisions

He outlined how stories can be used to influence attitudes, which are connected with our own beliefs, leading to how we make decisions. Whilst we think our decisions come from our rational mind, they are in fact emotional decisions, which we then post-rationalise.

Why you need a business story and how to create it

Stories speak to our cognitive subconscious, leading to emotion-based decision making.  As marketers, we therefore need to understand the structure for successful storytelling to ensure our narratives resonate with our audience. The goal is for your audience to get lost in the story so that they start living the brand.

The 3-Act Structure

Good stories are like a roller-coaster. They go up and down, driven by realistic, plausible events to create a change of state, whether positive or negative. This structure can be applied to any business story – and is the fundamental structure of any movie you’ve seen or any book you’ve read.

Act 1:

  • Set out The Challenge

What are you trying to achieve or what problem are you trying to overcome? This should arouse the audience’s natural curiosity as to how that challenge was overcome

Act 2:

  • Describe The Struggle

What setbacks did you face and have to overcome to achieve your goal?

Act 3:

  • The Resolve

What did we learn from going through this?

The 5 key questions

These need to be kept in mind and answered when telling a story- not necessarily in this order:

  • Who
  • What
  • Why
  • When
  • Where

Additional Tips:

  • Begin with case studies. These are effectively short stories, which can be made more compelling using this structure
  • Decide on the Voice – who it is who tells the story. For example, asking one of your lawyers or accountants to tell the story will add strength and authenticity.


Helen Trudgeon

Head of Programming, PM Forum