In any meeting between a client and a creative agency it’s only a matter of time before phrases like ‘telling the story’ or ‘establishing a clear narrative’ come up. Given that we may be discussing a relatively straightforward marketing campaign or report that can seem a bit OTT. After all – whether the client is providing complex legal advice to global corporations or manufacturing gromits – it shouldn’t take Charles Dickens to describe it.

For the answer to this apparent mismatch I turn to Dr Who and his tardis. Or more precisely to the man who re-invented the good Doctor for the modern age, legendary scriptwriter Russell T Davies. As a fledgling Coronation Street storyliner I once had the pleasure of working with him and took every opportunity to soak up his wise words. “The Queen dies and then the King dies – that is a series of events’, he said, “But if the Queen dies and then the King dies of a broken heart, that is a story”. What he means is that in his second example the events are linked by cause: one happens because of the other.

So, jumping in the tardis and going back to our annual report for a gromit manufacturer… In January the market for their goods improves, in February they open a new sales office and in April they introduce a new apprenticeship scheme. That’s good news all round. But it doesn’t tell you that the events were any more than a happy coincidence. If we say instead that ‘because of better market conditions we increased production, recruited a new sales team to sell the extra goods and set up an apprenticeship scheme to train the staff we’ll need to make even more gromits in the future’, it shows that the management has a plan. Just as in our King and Queen example, by linking cause and effect we have turned events into story and by doing so demonstrated a strategy. In fact the two have a lot in common. Both story and strategy bring actions together into a cohesive, compelling narrative.

There are many other story techniques that can be applied in the corporate world. I’ll focus on just two. The first is the need, no matter how complex the plot, to have a simple motif that runs through it like the proverbial stick of rock. As well as being what the whole film is ‘about’, it will permeate individual scenes, characters and shots. This can be applied to the commercial world: identify the key purpose of your business and make sure it is on every page, whether that’s through a strapline, a blog, a well-chosen image or in the wider strategy. The second and final point to focus on here is dialectic, often in the form of opposing forces struggling for dominance. In a film, that may be the battle between youth and age, innocence and experience, good and evil. In business, any leader will be well aware of the need to manage opposing forces like profit and loss, supply and demand, opportunity and risk, disruption and stability. The tale of how you manage this, or help your clients to do so, should be at the heart of your communications.

And make sure your piece ends properly or the reader can be left hang…