(Brand) Storytelling 101, Lesson 1

Storytelling  |  Chelsea Tells Stories

I’ve been struggling to get my storytelling resource page together for ages, but the finish line kept moving farther away…until I realized that I could do it bit by bit. There is so much to share, so I’ll be rationing it out to you here (and eventually on my professional page) in the weeks/months (years?) to come.

The first instalment is from my recent master’s research project: ‘Telling Stories, Building Brands.’ Bored already?

Despite what you may have learned in high school English class, there is no universally accepted definition of story or what makes a story. For the purpose of my research, I adopted the definition of Vanderbilt University’s Jennifer Edson Escalas, with whom I spent a great deal of library time. According to Escalas and previous narrative research, the best-developed (and theoretically the most effective and compelling) stories have the following elements:

  1. Actors engaged in actions to achieve goals – there should be a “valued end point”
  2. Insight into what the actors are thinking and feeling
  3. Observable personal evolution or change in the life of a character
  4. Causality – what caused things to happen as they did?
  5. A well-delineated beginning (initial event), middle (crisis or turning point), and ending (conclusion)
  6. A focus on specific, particular events rather than on generalizations or abstractions

Using these criteria, I examined the YouTube videos of three non-profit organizations that are taking on the world water crisis: Charity: Water,, and Water for People. My most significant finding was that Charity: Water videos tell the ‘best’ stories. More often than not, they use well-developed narratives (more on why this is important coming up soon) that are also visually beautiful. Here is their highest-scoring narrative video (it made me cry each and every time I watched it):


Organizations of all kinds–non-profit, for-profit, public sector and private–could learn a great deal from Charity: Water and its use of brand storytelling. For anybody who needs help getting started, the following guidelines are based on my multidisciplinary research on storytelling/narrative:

The makings of a great story  |  Chelsea Tells Stories

If you’re still not sure how or where to start, I don’t blame you. This is only the beginning. More great resources to come soon.

P.S. I’ve been so touched by Charity: Water’s stories that I decided to start a fundraising campaign of my own. To see the inspiring story of Charity: Water’s newest initiatives in India, click here. If you feel so inclined, you can make a contribution while you’re there.

As always, thanks for reading. x

Both visuals >> Chelsea Herman / Chelsea Tells Stories.
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