Transcript: How To Scale Your Business Using The StoryBrand Framework With Dr. J.J. Peterson & April Hawkins

June 1, 2023

J.J. PETERSON: “Your story has to have cohesion and fidelity. It, basically, has to stick together and make sense. If a story does not stick together and make sense, we actually stop paying attention to it. 

“Like, a simple example of this is if you're watching a movie and you see that in the movie they say that they're in LAX airport and you know that that's actually Chicago O'Hare. And you go—all of a sudden you stop paying attention to the movie, and you go, ‘Wait. That doesn't make sense. That doesn't stick together. They're not in L.A.’ We stop experiencing narrative transportation; therefore, that story has less influence.  

“Well, the research talks about that for movies and books, but it also goes in to marketing. So when an audience, when a customer can see themselves in your story, they actually experience narrative transportation, and your story has a greater influence on them—so in images that you're using, in the words that you're using. And the research shows that narrative transportation can happen in as little as a tweet or an Instagram post, so that's why getting your story right is so important.” 

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY PORTERFIELD: Oh, I'm so excited to tell you about this podcast that I think you should listen to. But to be quite honest, I think many of you are already listening. It's the Goal Digger Podcast by my girl Jenna Kutcher, and it's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. So the Goal Digger Podcast helps you discover your dream career, with productivity tips, social strategies, business hacks, inspirational stories, and so much more. I love all of Jenna's episodes because they are the perfect mix of actionable-meets-candid conversations. She'll cover things like how to improve your website and your email copy to how to say “Screw it” to your morning routine. You’re going to love it. So listen to Goal Digger wherever you get your podcasts. 

Welcome back to another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy. Thank you so much for being here and joining me. I know there are so many podcasts to choose from, but by you being here, I know that you're saying yes to your future and yes to your business, and that, my friend, is a huge freaking deal. 

Now, on to today's episode, and holy heck, it is a juicy one, because today you are going to learn how you can scale your business by using the StoryBrand framework. Now, the StoryBrand framework might ring a bell to you because I've had its creator, Donald Miller, on the show a few times previously. Don is one of the most brilliant marketing minds of this generation. Plus, he's just a really good human being. And what's so cool is that his StoryBrand framework has been used by more than ten thousand organizations, including Intel, Pantene, and Berkshire Hathaway, which, very impressive. 

Now, before you say, “But Amy, those are huge brands. I have a small business,” well, I want you to hold your horses because the StoryBrand framework has been just as effective for billion-dollar brands as it has been for small businesses. Basically, no matter the size of your business or what it is that your business offers, the human brain is drawn towards the same thing. And as you'll hear more about in this episode, the brain is drawn toward clarity and away from confusion. And that's why the StoryBrand framework is so effective. 

So here today, to teach you how to scale your business using the StoryBrand framework is Dr. J.J. Peterson and April Sunshine Hawkins. You've probably heard of them because they're the hosts of the chart-topping podcast Marketing Made Simple, where they serve up practical marketing tips rooted in the StoryBrand framework that can be used to improve marketing, connect with customers, and get more cash in the door. J.J. is the head of StoryBrand and also co-hosts the Building a StoryBrand podcast with Donald Miller. He's a busy guy. And I'll just go ahead and put it out there: when it comes to brand strategy and messaging, J.J. is kind of a big deal. And April might just be my kindred spirit, because like me, she's an educator at heart. She puts her degree in early-childhood education to great use as a teacher for StoryBrand, where she helps clients with their social-media strategy, copywriting, and so much more.  

Also, I want to add that my marketing team is traveling to Nashville next month to meet with the StoryBrand team here and learn all about it and apply it to our business. Many of us on the team have read the book StoryBrand, but we've never been in one of the trainings, and so I am very excited. I’m, of course, going to be there. And I’ll probably do another podcast about our experience going through this in person. But there’s a lot of other ways you can experience StoryBrand, and we’ll talk about that in this episode.  

So please help me welcome J.J. and April to the show. 

Well, hey, there, both of you. Good to see you. 

J.J.: Hello, Amy! 


AMY: I am so looking forward to this. This is going to be fun. We've got both of you on. And before we even start, I want both of you to introduce yourself. So I think ladies first. April, do you want to go first?  

APRIL: I would love to go first. Number one, I have to say congratoritos on the New York Times. Oh, my freaking goodness! 

AMY: Thank you. It was, like, my career highlight. It was a very big deal. So thank you so much.  

APRIL: Oh, my word.  

J.J.: For real. 

APRIL: I just consumed all of the media blitz that you had, specifically on Instagram. I was in it for every moment. I was just like, “Oh my gosh, Yes. Jasmine Star, Jenna Kutcher.” Everyone is so hyped for you, so I just had to be a part of the hype.  

AMY: Thank you.  

APRIL: And I would definitely call myself a hype girl in my intro. Like, that's one of my things, for sure. 

AMY: _____(07:03—That’s what you’ve been saying). 

APRIL: But I'm April Sunshine Hawkins. I am a StoryBrand champion here at StoryBrand Business Made Simple, and I am the co-host of the Marketing Made Simple podcast, with my amazing partner, Dr. J.J. Peterson. 

J.J.: Which is me. I'm Dr. J.J. Peterson, and I'm the head of StoryBrand and the co-host of Marketing Made Simple podcast. And also a huge Amy Porterfield fan. 

APRIL: Yes. 

AMY: Oh my—you guys are just too nice to me, and I'm going to have you back every week. 

J.J.: _____(07:35—We’ve earned it.) We’re in it. 

AMY: I love it. I love it.  

Okay. Can you tell my listeners about what it is that so many businesses, even the ones who hire expensive agencies to help them, get wrong with their marketing? 

J.J.: Yeah. It really is kind of heartbreaking for us that so many companies waste enormous amounts of money on marketing. And the main reason that they end up wasting money is that their messaging is confusing. Most companies really are too close to their product and services to fully explain to their customers what they offer in a way that just invites customers right in to do business with them. That is really one of the biggest things. Their messaging is just purely confusing because—and here's why that matters and why that's hurting them—we receive between three to five thousand commercial messages a day, all of us, at any given moment, depending on the research you read, three to five thousand commercial messages, which means we're being bombarded with information at every given moment of our lives that we're awake, pretty much. 

AMY: Yes. 

J.J.: And so what, then, that means is, is that when we are putting messaging out there as a company, we're fighting against all of that noise that is just coming at our customers at any given moment. And the messages that are going to actually get through and get to our customers are the ones that are clear, are compelling, and—here's the really important part—actually show how our products can contribute to our customers’ survival and thriving, because we are actually designed—our brains, really, the way our brains work is to pay attention to information that contributes to our survival and thriving. So basically—and there's a whole bunch of research behind this—but the bottom line is, if your messaging is confusing, if it's overwhelming, if it doesn't tell your customer’s story in a way that shows them how your product solves a problem and contributes to their survival and thriving, they are out because they don't have time for that nonsense. They’re getting bombarded with too much information every single day. 

AMY: Okay. That is powerful. I don't think anyone's explained it like that on the podcast before, and it makes absolute perfect sense. So I'm glad we're starting there because what we're going to share coming up kind of relates to exactly what you just said.  

So here's my next question. There's something I love in the Building a StoryBrand book called the marketing grunt test. And it's great because it's three questions that you can ask yourself to determine if your marketing does a good job of engaging your audience. So can you walk us through those questions? 

APRIL: Would love to walk you through those questions. So the grunt test is, basically, could a cave person—man, woman, whoever you might be—could a cave person grunt out what it is you do in a really simple, clear way? And the way that you figure out if you are passing the grunt test on your website or in your social-media posts or wherever you're putting this marketing message, the three questions that you need to answer are, What do you offer? How does it make your customer’s life better? And what does your customer need to do in order to get it? And if you answer those three questions, then you're really off to the races, and the cave person would be able to grunt it out very simply and easily and not have to go looking or scanning through your whole website to try to figure that out. They would just be able to see it right there at the top, specifically in the header of your website, so that it makes it really easy for them to go, “Oh, yeah. This is for me. I know why it actually makes my life better, and I know exactly what this person wants me to do in order to do business with them.” 

AMY: . Okay. That's powerful. We love to ask questions like that. So again, what do you offer? How will it make my life better? And what do I need to do to buy it? And you're saying not only are those questions important, but they should be very clear, like, let's say above the fold on your website. They should be able to find them like that? 

APRIL: That’s right. That’s right. The header, the sub header, and then the call-to-action buttons, that's what that language should contain: the answers to those three questions.  

J.J.: And the research shows that actually 70 percent of small businesses in America do not have a clear call to action on their website— 

APRIL: Oh, it’s a travesty. 

J.J.: —which again, heartbreaking because the only way people can buy your product is if you show them how to buy it, by a Buy Now button; or if you are a consultant, Schedule an Appointment or Download This. You need something that people can immediately take action on. And 70 percent of small businesses in America do not have a clear call to action on their website. And that alone, if you just answered that part of the grunt test, which answers the question, what do I need to do to get your product?, if you can have a strong call to action, honestly, that's, like, 50 percent of the battle right there. You're going to beat those other 70 percent of businesses that don't even have that.  

AMY: Okay. Totally agree. But I have a question for you. So I teach people how to grow their email list. And so what I teach—and you tell me if you disagree with this, because I really want to have a conversation—what I teach is that above the fold, our call to action is to get them into your email list by offering something irresistible that's absolutely free. Because a lot of people that I work with, they have either digital courses, memberships, consulting services, or anything like that, but they're thousands of dollars. So I'm typically not teaching “Right away, they come to your website. Sell them a two-thousand-dollar digital course.” So what's your thought behind that? 

J.J.: Yeah. I agree and disagree a little bit.  

AMY: Okay, good. Tell me. 

J.J.: We call what you're talking about—getting somebody’s email from them by offering something of value—we call that a transitional call to action. You should have both on your website. So a direct call to action that is a Buy Now button, Shop Now, or even Schedule an Appointment, as well as that transitional call to get their email, especially when they're not ready to buy a thousand-dollar course; or if you're not launching the course right away, like, if you're holding for a launch later, then absolutely, the transitional call is actually the main thing you should do. If people can't buy it right now, then the main call to action should be that transitional call button to get their email.  

But even with a direct call to action on your website, you should probably have a pop up that comes up that offers them something of value for free in order to get an email address. And then, I also like to put both the direct and indirect, or transitional, call to action in the header of a website often, because you can have both. If they're ready to buy, you show them exactly what they're supposed to do. If they want to learn more about you and continue to grow in the relationship, then they download your PDF, give you their email address, and then you can sell them on your product through emails. 

APRIL: We have an example of this on our StoryBrand Guide website. We're trying to get people to become certified with us because they love our framework. And so our main call to action is to apply. Like, we want you to apply for the program. But if you're not quite ready to do that, we offer a transitional call to action, which is a ten-step checklist for building and growing your marketing business. So we're already giving them a lot of value and telling them how they can start doing it on their own, but maybe they're not quite ready to apply yet. But we want them to apply. That is the main, main thing we want them to do. And at the end of that application, they're going to schedule a call to talk to somebody on our team. 

AMY: Okay. Love this. What’s the URL? I want people to be able to see an example of this. 


AMY: Perfect. Okay. So if you want to see an example of both in action, because I haven't seen that a lot, go there right now. 

APRIL: You got it. 

AMY: Okay. So that, very, very helpful. I love the way you explained that.  

So now I want to talk about storytelling. So why are stories such a powerful tool when it comes to marketing? And I'm asking this selfishly, because one thing I've realized, I was on stage recently at my own book event. And Jasmine Star and Jenna Kutcher, like you mentioned earlier, they spoke as well. And I watched them, and they told story after story after story.  

I don't do that naturally. Stories, for some reason, do not come natural to me when I'm teaching or on stage. I’m so focused on the “step one, step two, step three” and “this is how you do it” that I lose—and I always sometimes think the story is too fluffy, and it's just going to take too much time, so I need to teach them the three steps, or whatever. And I know that's not right. So can you kind of give me, shed some light on this for me? 

J.J.: Well, first off, I would say that I, once again, I'm going to disagree with you. I actually do think you tell a story when you're on stage. And this is a common misconception, I think. People think that stories or telling a story on stage is all about an event that happened or an example that happened that involved, you know, something funny that happened to you. You have to be entertaining with it. You have to be emotional with it, move people because it's such a sentimental story.  

That is one form of story, but story is actually formulaic. And the way that story works is story is kind of this well-worn path of information, right? Basically, story formula, what it does is that it shows us how to make sense of information. Story is a sense-making device. So when you get up on stage and you tell the audience almost exactly what we just did at the start of this podcast, you said, “So many companies are wasting money on marketing,” that invites us into a story about people who are wasting money on marketing.  

Then, we ramp up the stakes. We create some tension by going into it a little bit more. I say, “We're bombarded with three to five thousand commercial messages a day.” And then, we are starting to move into the phase where we're going to give people some actual, real, tangible help with three steps, three questions. That’s part of the story as well.  

We're going to probably close out this podcast by casting a vision for what people can do with their lives once they have this information. That is actually a complete story. It is an audience, your audience, the podcast, who has a problem, who wants something. They want something. They want to be transformed by the story that we're about to tell. Then, you bring us in as guides, who come alongside and give information to help guide and move the character forward. Now we're giving them a plan with information that, ultimately, we will call them to action and cast a vision for a better life.  

I just gave you kind of a broken-down version of what story is. Story is that kind of formula. There are actually seven elements of story. Story means, the seven elements are there's always a character who wants something. That character, then—and you'll see this in every movie and book you experience—that there is a character who wants something, who, then, encounters a problem. The only way a story gets good is if the main character experiences some kind of problem. Then, that hero, that main character, can't get out of the problem on their own, so they need a guide, somebody who comes alongside, like a Yoda or a Gandalf, somebody who's going to help them win the day, who gives them a plan, the information that helps them move forward, and then ultimately calls them to action that results in success or failure. Those seven elements are in every good story.  

So when you get up on stage, you are actually an amazing storyteller because you're following that formula even when you're not bringing in “examples” to heighten the pieces of information you're giving or backstory on it. But you’re actually a really good storyteller. 

And then when, like, Jasmine and different people bring in kind of those extra stories as well, the examples that they're bringing in, they're using the same formula in those stories. They're choosing good stories based on, probably, I would imagine, they had a problem, and they were really struggling. And then this is how they overcame that problem, and this is what life is like now. Right? 

AMY: Yeah. 

J.J.: So they're going through that whole thing.  

And so that's really what story is about. Story is a sense-making device. It takes all of the information that you have to share with people and says, “These are the important things you need to focus on in order for your life to move forward in a better way.” So when you are presenting a plan to people about how to do their email marketing, you're actually telling a story, because you're organizing the information in a way that helps make sense for people.  

So that is why it's so important, going back to your original question. Why is story so important? When we are bombarding people with information, people are getting overwhelmed—let's specifically say somebody is about to launch a new course. They've worked with you. They're about to launch a new course, and they want to tell their audience everything that's in that course, all the exciting things, all of the backgrounds that got them there to create this course. And they're going on and on and on about that information. They're just bombarding people with information. That's actually going to overwhelm people, and they're going to tune out.  

But if they take all the things they know about their course and create soundbites that follow those seven elements of story—understand what their audience wants; what problems their audience have that this course can help overcome; how they specifically can be their Yoda, the guide to their customer by showing them their experience and how they actually care about them; and then, give them a real specific three-step plan on how to take the course or buy the course; then, give them a call to action; and then cast a vision for what life is like if they do or don't buy the course; if they create those seven talking points, now we’ve taken all the information and we've narrowed it down to the things that will actually make sense for our customers’ lives and their story. 

AMY: Ooh, that is powerful. While you were talking, a question came up. I was thinking, out of all of those seven steps or principles in the framework, which one do you think most business owners struggle with the most? 

APRIL: Ooh, okay, Amy. J.J. and I might differ on opinion on this one.  

AMY: Okay. 

J.J.: I want to hear what you say. 

APRIL: All right. So I do think that call to action is one of the most difficult, and J.J., you mentioned that earlier, because it is so heartbreaking that so many people leave that off their website or out of their social-media posts or out of their presentations even, or they overwhelm people with way too many calls to action. I was talking with a business owner the other day, and he, at the end of an event, was, like, “We asked people to do five different things. How are they going to know the thing that we actually want them to do if we ask them to do all five of those?” And so call to action, I think, is the one that makes the biggest difference in, like, the bottom line, because it's the one that actually generates the business.  

But I think that the one that people misinterpret the most is the problem that their customers are experiencing.  

AMY: Whoa. Tell me more. I would think that they are very clear on the problem. 

J.J.: No. 

APRIL: You would really think that. 

J.J.: I think they think they’re being clear on the problem. 

APRIL: Yeah. 

AMY: Okay. 

APRIL: And I think sometimes they got into business for one reason, and then their business grows and shifts and changes and morphs, and then they lose sight of what the actual tangible problem is that they solve. And they either, again, go overboard, being, like, “Here are all the problems,” and people are way too overwhelmed, or they just missed the mark and they're not using language that's resonating with their actual customer anymore because either the customer's changed or the business has changed. And so we're going into organizations all the time, and people are just really struggling to nail it. And that's really a tough spot.  

J.J.: And the reason why that they mess that up so much is that that's actually the most important piece of the story framework, right? If there is no problem in a story, there is no story, right? So if I was telling you a story, and I'm like, “Oh my gosh, Amy. This morning, it was so crazy. I got up, and I had coffee. And I sat on my couch—” 

APRIL: Uh-huh. 

J.J.: “—and I drank it.” 

APRIL: Come on.  

J.J.: Right. _____(24:55—You’re sitting there, waiting, going,) “So why are you telling me this? This is a boring story,” right? 

Now, if instead, if I change it and I go, “Okay, Amy. You’re not going to believe what happened to me this morning. I had my coffee, I'm sitting on my couch, and all of a sudden a car comes crashing through my dining-room window.” And then I go, “So anyway, marketing.” And you're like, “No, no, no. Wait. What happened? Tell me what happened to the car.” You know, we want to know the end of that story. 

Well, that problem, in a story, if there is no problem, it’s not an interesting story. When you talk about the problem in a story, what it really does, the main character's experiencing, is it hooks the audience to say, “Is this story going to be solved?” And it really hooks the audience. And so in our marketing story, that piece of really nailing and naming your customers’ problem, what that does is it invites them in. Even just using language like, “You know how…?” I mean, just, like, starting a sentence like that. “You know how so many people waste money on marketing because they feel like they're throwing spaghetti at a wall at trying to figure out what works?” And all of a sudden, somebody who's experiencing that is going to go, “Yes.” Well, now they're hooked. If you just walked away from that story, they're frustrated, right?— 

AMY: Yeah. 

J.J.: —because they're ___(26:15) instead I have to, then, go into the story and go, “Well, at StoryBrand, what we actually do is help people clarify their marketing message with the power of story.” And they're like, “Go on,” right? They want to know more. And that's why—so the problem of all the elements of story, really that understanding the problem the main character's experiencing, and when we talk about that in the context of marketing, what we're talking about is your customer is the main character of your story as a company. You are not. Your customer’s the main character of the story. So you're identifying what is their problem that they're experiencing. And when you can name that in your marketing and name it well—like April said, not name twenty problems they're experiencing, but one—that you're going to hook them, and now they're going to be into your story. 

And here’s kind of one more thing. I’ll get a little nerdy, and then I'll shut up about it. But so my dissertation is in narrative theory and specifically in narrative marketing. You had asked a while back, again, why is story so important? There's study in communication theory, and there's an area called narrative transportation. And the idea behind it is that when we as an audience experience or see or read a good story, we experience narrative transportation. We actually put ourselves into the story. So if you’ve ever, like, cried in a movie or jumped, you've experienced some form of narrative transportation. You've emotionally put yourself in that story.  

Well, the research shows that the higher level of narrative transportation people experience through a story, the more influence that story has over their thoughts and their action. So the more you can see yourself in the story, the more it influences your thoughts or actions.  

Now, here's where it, then, really gets kind of the nerdy part, is that there are basically this fifteen-point scale of how you achieve narrative transportation. But the biggest piece of it is that your story has to have cohesion and fidelity. It, basically, has to stick together and make sense. If a story does not stick together and make sense, we actually stop paying attention to it.  

Like, a simple example of this is if you're watching a movie and you see that in the movie they say that they're in LAX airport and you know that that's actually Chicago O'Hare. And you go—all of a sudden you stop paying attention to the movie, and you go, “Wait. That doesn't make sense. That doesn't stick together. They're not in L.A.” We stop experiencing narrative transportation; therefore, that story has less influence.  

Well, the research talks about that for movies and books, but it also goes in to marketing. So when an audience, when a customer can see themselves in your story, they actually experience narrative transportation, and your story has a greater influence on them—so in images that you're using, in the words that you're using. And the research shows that narrative transportation can happen in as little as a tweet or an Instagram post, so that's why getting your story right is so important. 

When you are telling the right story, that uses the right words, that is interesting and clear and compelling, and your customer can say, “Yes, that's my story. I'm in that. That's the problem I'm experiencing,” they will experience narrative transportation in a greater way, which means your words will actually have a bigger influence on their actions.  

AMY: That is some good stuff. I mean, I'm glad we brought the doctor today, because— 

APRIL: I know. 

AMY: —come on. Right?  

APRIL: Mm-hmm. 

AMY: Okay. So no, that was powerful, and I've never heard you talk about that before, so I love it. 

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Also, one thing that came up, especially when I saw you both on camera when we started the interview, is that I got to be with both of you when I spoke at a recent event, one of your recent events. And I was backstage with April—she was guiding me and telling me where I was going to go, and she was making me feel less nervous—and you were on stage, J.J. You were introducing me, I think, but you were setting it up. And the crowd was howling. They thought you were the funniest person in the world. They laughed and laughed and laughed. And my anxiety is going up and up and up. I'm like, “Holy cow. What is he doing out there? He's making them love him, and they're going to hate me because I don’t think I'm that funny.” And so I just, I'm really not. I'm not naturally funny. I couldn't tell a joke to save my life. And when I'm funny is when I'm kind of making fun of myself. But other than that, I really am not. And I know April's funny. I have no doubt in my mind, if April gets on stage, people are laughing. So my thing is, do you have to be that kind of entertainer to tell a great story? because I genuinely am not.  

J.J.: Absolutely not.  

APRIL: And Amy, I would say you must, like, go, like, blind or, like, deaf whenever you step on the stage, and you're just like, “Here's my thing,” and you just, like, put everything out, because you slayed.  

AMY: Oh, well. 

APRIL: Like, J.J. warmed up the crowd, and then you stepped on stage, and you had people in stitches. And so— 

AMY: Okay. Well, I appreciate you saying that. It did not feel that way. And I really get nervous getting on stage and doing that thing. But I do think it comes more natural to you two. So that's where I start. I get in my head, and I know some of my audience is like, “I'm not naturally funny,” or “I'm not naturally emotive,” or whatever it might be. What about the emotion side of it? 

APRIL: I’m going to say—okay. So listener, I'm going to be more along what you're talking about, Amy. 

AMY: Okay. 

APRIL: Like, I am not as naturally funny. I'm a person who came from a background where I was meant to be quiet and listen and let other people do the talking. And so I've had to do a lot of practicing, of using my voice and figuring that out, and doing improv, like, taking an improv class.  

AMY: Oh! 

APRIL: I'm terrible at improv, but it helped me break down those layers of, like, all the filters that my message had to go through in order to actually get it out. And that's where the StoryBrand framework really helped step in for me, because it gives me a grounded confidence that these words are going to connect, and they are going to resonate. And it gives me permission to be a great guide and not making this about me, right?  

AMY: Ooh, yes. 

APRIL: It’s _____(33:41) someone else and helping them along their journey and giving them the tools that they need along their way. I love playing the Yoda role. I'm an Enneagram Two. I'm a helper. Like, that's just my vibe. And so whenever I get to have empathy towards how my customers are feeling, then I get to ground myself in that and go, “If I don't say this to them, they're not going to be helped along their way,” and that's really what this whole journey and world is about. It's about helping make this world a little bit easier. And that's why we have a podcast in the first place. That's why the StoryBrand framework exists. It's just, we're trying to make marketing easier and make it work for people. 

J.J.: And Amy, I’ll ask you this question, and I think I know the answer to this. 

AMY: Okay. 

J.J.: If you ____(34:38) stage, and as a person in business—okay, we’re human first, but obviously, as a person in business, would you rather just people say that you were likable or that you helped them? 

AMY: Ooh. I love this question. Absolutely, that I helped them. 

J.J.: Yeah. And I think a lot of people who focus—there are some amazing communicators who are hilarious and who tell amazing stories, but I do think that a lot of people sacrifice helping other people for the sake of being liked when they're on stage. And that's a challenge I would offer anybody who, even if you are naturally funny, if you are sacrificing effectiveness and helping other people for the sake of being liked, I think you're actually doing a disservice to your audience.  

So you can be funny. Yes, that breaks the ice. You can be emotionally connected to the audience. That helps with narrative transportation as well because they can see themselves in you. All of those things are true.  

However, when somebody gets up on stage and starts with a joke, I usually go, “Oh, they want to be liked. They're not here to help.” If somebody gets up on stage and says, “All of us struggle with our marketing, and here's why,” now I know that person doesn't care if I like them or not. 

AMY: Yeah. 

J.J.: _____(35:59) And here's the fun thing about it, is that when you actually help people, then you are liked, and you are memorable. So that's the first thing I would say, is that remember why you're in those spaces, for everybody listening. Remember why you're there. You're not there to be liked as a person. I mean, that's more harsh than I mean it. But you’re there to help people, and so don't focus on being entertaining. Add entertaining later, but be focused on helping them overcome their problems. That's thing one.  

Then, since I already brought in the doctor stuff, let me add one more thing here. So there's actually a bunch of—part of my study was in comedy and drama, understanding the narrative differences between the two. If you are an elite brand, that you focus, you have, you cost a little bit more, like—well, I’ll take it to an extreme— like Gucci, BMW, elite kind of brand, you actually shouldn't use humor in your brand message— 

AMY: Interesting. 

J.J.: —because in story theory, drama is actually—this goes back to Aristotle and Plato, like, all the way back in poetics. They would write that if you want to move the elite of a culture, you have to use drama, because drama is based on the gain or loss of status. That's why all drama things are about people in positions of power, so you have politicians, lawyers, doctors, policemen. You don't have dramas about garbagemen or people who serve coffee at a coffee shop. Those are comedies because comedy is aimed at the masses. So if you have an elite brand, you'll never see Gucci, BMW, try to be funny. You'll see Doritos, Bud Light, Taco Bell try to be funny because they're aimed at the masses. Comedy neutralizes and makes status a non thing, so it's designed to be for the everyman. Elite is drama. So if you're a brand that kind of is in that elite space, I actually would—you will make a mistake by being funny. If you are aimed at the masses, you can still use drama, for sure, but you can also use comedy. 

So that’s kind of the differentiation. Elite: no comedy. For the masses: you can use comedy and drama. 

AMY: Okay. Fantastic. That makes perfect sense. I am loving this conversation. This is making me so happy.  

Okay. So while you were talking, I thought, I want them to tell me a success story of a small business that you've worked with that has used the StoryBrand framework. Like, I'd love to hear how they started, what was off about their marketing maybe, what did they do to clarify that message? I need to kind of see this come together. Do you have one? 

APRIL: Oh man, there are so many. Talk about the hospital.  

J.J.: Yeah. I worked with the Orange County Children's Hospital, and— 

APRIL: Which is not— 

AMY: That’s a big one. 

APRIL: —a small business. Not a small business, but you're going to love this story.  

J.J.: Yeah. Not a small business, but Orange County Children's Hospital. And it is a little bit, their audience that I'm going to talk about actually was a “small business,” because kind of their big branding, we had already worked on and had done really well. I came in and specifically worked with them over a couple of days to work on their internal branding. So it was a small business because they were targeting their employees. Their employees were the audience, and recruiting new doctors to join, recruiting anybody to work in the hospital. And, you know, normally in that context, you would be, like, “We're one of the top children's hospitals in the world. Here's all the benefits you can get. Here's all the dah, dah, dah.” And they would give all this information about the hospital and how great the hospital was. And what they ended up shifting the message to become was to say, “All right. Who is our audience here? It is we’re recruiting people to work here, or our employees. So they need to be the hero of the story. So how do we make them the hero of the story versus the hospital?”  

And what they actually ended up coming up with was, and this is a piece of storytelling which is called aspirational identity, they're saying, “Who do the people want to become when they work here, and how do we help them become that through the story?” And they chose the mighty brigade. So the mighty brigade who protects childhood, that's really what they said. So when you join the Orange County Children's Hospital, whether you are a janitor or a doctor or a surgeon or a nurse, you are coming in and joining a mighty brigade.  

And they went around and they actually had kind of three statements—because that's part of giving somebody “a good plan” of how to become this—three statements that everybody can say, “I believe,” right? And they are like, “I believe that childhood is precious and was meant to be protected. I believe that everybody deserves great health care, even if they can't afford it,” right? And instead of going, “Well, here's your retirement package, and here's all the things, and here's all the papers you need to sign,” they invited new recruits and new doctors into a story where they got to be a part of a mighty brigade of protecting childhood. And people were begging to sign this document. I mean, they were, like, going, they thought, “Okay. We're going to have…” You know, think about any company with HR, that's like, “Hey, everybody needs to sign this.” 

APRIL: You're like, “Yeah, yeah.” 

J.J.: “Just sign it.” They used it in all of their interviews. They used it in all recruitment. And it did such amazing things, not only for morale of the hospital staff but for recruitment and bringing other doctors in.  

And that's just so easy to see very quickly how changing from making the story about “yourself” to making the story about your audience and their story. And every small business can do that, right? Instead of walking in and going, “What is it that we can offer?” that's often where we start with marketing is, like, “We do this. We're the best at this,” and instead going, “No. What is it that your customer really wants? What is the problem that they're experiencing?” And that alone, when you start your story with that and you use those talking points to begin your marketing story, what you are doing in that moment is you are positioning your customers the hero of the story. And that's really the whole point of all of this. Make your customer the hero. The role you play in the story is the guide. You get to be Yoda. They get to be Luke Skywalker, and they get to win the day.  

AMY: Oh, amen to that. I know people are listening, and they're like, “I want to do this,” so I want you both to tell me where can people go learn more about you and the StoryBrand framework? What if they want to dive in?  

J.J: So the best way to get started, really, is with what we call a BrandScript, and a BrandScript is, basically, it's a piece of paper that really shows you the seven different elements of story that we talked about today. And each section has just a box on it that you can start writing down talking points for that part of your story. And we’ve actually created an online version, and people can go get that at, one word. So And people can just go on there and kind of just play around with the electronic version and start putting talking points down. And when you do that, what it does is it begins to take all the information you have about your company, about your story, and first off, focuses it on your customer and focuses the information down so that it's short talking points that actually makes sense to your customer, get rid of all of the noise, get rid of all of the confusion, and make your customer the hero. So that's 

AMY: Fantastic.  

April and J.J., I absolutely love spending time with you. I want you guys to come over to my house and, like, have a drink tonight. That's how much fun I have with you. So maybe we need to make that happen. Both of you—wait. I know, J.J., you're here, but, April, do you live here? 

APRIL: I do, yeah. 

AMY: Okay, great. All right. Then we might need to make it happen.  

But I am so excited that I got to talk to both of you. Thank you so very much. As I mentioned in the intro, my entire marketing team is going to get to work with you on StoryBrand. We've never done it. We're very excited. So I'm sure I'll do a podcast explaining my own process and what it was like for us. So this is just the beginning. So thank you very much. 

J.J.: Oh, thanks for having us. 

APRIL: Thanks, Amy. 

AMY: All right, my friend. How incredible is the StoryBrand framework? I'll be honest: sometimes I feel like many marketing strategies are convoluted and super complicated, and I love how simple they make the StoryBrand framework. No matter where you are in your business, whether you're just getting started or you've been established for a while, this is a great reminder that marketing does not have to be as difficult as it might seem.  

I have to say I'm really looking forward even more now to learning StoryBrand with my marketing team and taking all my learnings back to this podcast and sharing with you. So I'm meeting with them next month, so we shall see.  

As always, thank you for joining me here. I have so many amazing episodes coming down the pipeline, so I hope you'll join me every Tuesday for a Shorty episode and every Thursday for those step-by-step episodes that I know you love, or my episodes with guests.  

Also, if you could, will you go ahead and share this podcast with one of your favorite friends? Just grab the link, text it to them, and maybe it could help them with their marketing as well. And if you haven't done so already, can you rate my podcast? The more ratings we get, the more opportunity we get in front of new people that we can help. And I would be so forever grateful.  

All right. Thanks for joining me today. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now. 

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