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Slide Notes

This talk was originally presented at AMA Houston MarketingEdge (October 2013).

* * *

I lead marketing for Haiku Deck, a startup focused on transforming presentation creation and sharing -- I will tell you *that* story in a bit.

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Crafting a Winning Story

Published on Nov 06, 2015

Talk on storytelling created for AMA Houston, October 2013.



Catherine Carr, Haiku Deck
This talk was originally presented at AMA Houston MarketingEdge (October 2013).

* * *

I lead marketing for Haiku Deck, a startup focused on transforming presentation creation and sharing -- I will tell you *that* story in a bit.

Photo by mfcorwin


@mamatweeta @haikudeck
I would love to make this session a living story by having you tweet along! Here's today's hashtag as well as my handle, and haiku decks.

Link to the #ME2013 stream: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ME2013&src=typd
Photo by davis.jacque

Some things we'll cover

  • Annoying PowerPoint survey
  • Seattle rap stars
  • Origami
  • CTO of Australia
Today we are going to touch on all of these unlikely topics...
Photo by Ray Schamp


Model, methods, examples
I've noticed there's a lot of talk about storytelling these days, and it sometimes takes on this mystical quality, like there's some secret behind the curtain. I did brand and content strategy consulting before I joined Haiku Deck, and clients would sometimes reach out to me with a kind of desperation -- often they had been told they needed to do storytelling, and they didn't quite know where to start.

So today let's demystify it a little bit. We're going to look at a model for incorporating storytelling into your marketing. I'm going to share some methods I use, and some examples from my work -- and I want to hear about some of yours, too.
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But most of all my hope is that you come away inspired, because I believe just about anything can be turned into a powerful story, and I also don't think it's that terribly hard to do.
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It only seems appropriate to start with a little story. A few months ago Katrina, one of the organizers, downloaded Haiku Deck on her iPad.
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And a few days later she got this mail from me, which you will, too, if you also download Haiku Deck (which of course I hope you will).

And in this mail I welcome you to our creative community, and I invite you to share your story with Haiku Deck, and I show an example from one of our earliest fans, a blogger from Omaha named Megan.

One thing you should know is that I am allergic to no-reply mails -- I really don't understand that -- so you can write right back to me, and I really do read them and respond. Quite a few of my favorite stories got their start this way, by us deciding to be open rather than closed.

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And one day I got a response, and Katrina had actually sent me a Haiku Deck called "Why you should speak at MarketingEdge," which was pretty much a day-maker. So even though I had to rearrange some plans, I am really delighted to be here.

1,000,000 Stories

So that's one story, but really that's one of about one million stories that have been part of my year on the exhilarating and occasionally somewhat nuts startup roller coaster at Haiku Deck.

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There have been hundreds of thousands of Haiku Decks published in that time, and every week we review hundreds and select the very best ones for our gallery. So we see tons of stories shared--from entrepreneurs pitching their business to educators sharing their philosophy--and we have really honed our understanding of what makes an effective story.

I'm also counting the thousands of tweets, and the thousands of users that join our community each week, because to me every single one of those is a story.

See the Haiku Deck Gallery here: http://www.haikudeck.com/gallery/featured

A Model

So when you're weeding through thousands of stories, what makes a good one?

Make your story...

  • Real
  • Resonant
  • Repeatable
You could probably find as many answers to that as there are stories, but here is what works for me. I strive for stories that are real, that resonate, and that are easy to remember and repeat.
Photo by Marie in NC


Let's talk about real. Now for sure, in our culture there are beautiful, powerful stories based on fantasy or magic or imagination, but the kind of marketing I practice is based on trust and relationships, and if people start to feel that you're trying to sell them something that's not grounded in reality, you lose that trust.

So I believe that especially for marketing stories, real is really, really important.

Method: Be authentic.

This obviously flows from being real, but it's something that's surprisingly hard for many to do. I find that sometimes we put so many layers and filters on our communication that it gets kind of glossy, almost shellacked, and bulletproof and sort of forgettable.

Guess what? There is no rule that your About Us page, or your mission statement, or your email has to sound like everybody else's. It can sound like yours.
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Method: Start with passion.

Another method that is helpful is to look for the passion and try to capture that. And when you find it, there's almost always a great story behind it.

How did this person who is passionate about what you're doing find out about your product? How has it helped or changed them? What can their experience teach you about who you need to reach and how?

Method: Go off script.

You may be hoping to learn the secret formula for storytelling--do this, then that, add a little bit of this special ingredient, and poof, you have a fantastic story!

I'm actually going to tell you to go off script, to improvise, to let yourself be you. To follow the lead of your fans. To let go a little bit, and not worry about doing it right or wrong.

One bonus tip I'll throw in here is, if your story is taking the form of the presentation, to go off script by not reading your slides to your audience word for word. I just read the results of the annoying PowerPoint survey, and that is far and away the number one most annoying thing you can do.

{Here's a Haiku Deck summary of Dave Paradi's Annoying PowerPoint Survey:
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Here are some of my favorite sources for real, raw stories. The founders -- something inspired them to start this business, invent this product, change the way something works. What was that insight, that moment of clarity?

Employees are a fantastic source of stories. What innovations are they working on? Why did they decide to work here? What do they do outside of work that influences how they do their work?

Data--another treasure trove for real stories. This could be data that you are collecting on the back end, or research you do, or research somebody else does that applies to what you do.

Social media, if you're listening, can reveal dozens of amazing stories every day -- that's how I found out that a second-grader was teaching his teachers how to use Haiku Deck, or that an educator from Edmonton used it for a TEDx talk, etc.

And I believe that even your critics can turn into stories.


Next let's talk about some ways to make your story resonate.
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Method: Switch perspectives.

Now it seems sort of obvious, but to do this well you have to think about your audience, and what they know, what's going on In their lives, what they care about.

And I hate to break it to you, but one story does not fit all.

But when you're collecting so many wonderful real stories from all the sources we just talked about, that's ok. You'll always have the perfect story for any situation.

Method: Evoke emotion.

One of the most powerful ways to help your story land is to use imagery and sensory details to evoke an emotional response.

You might notice that imagery is really central to Haiku Deck, and that's for a reason. Images speak to us in a way that text and data points just can't. We pay attention more, we understand better, and we remember better, when there are images in the mix.


The last part of my personal formula is to make it repeatable. And this, of course, is marketing gold, because if you have employees and fans and bloggers and journalists repeating your real stories, you are triggering word of mouth, which is the most powerful and effective form of marketing.
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Method: Find the creative angle.

Now I do think its worth spending a little time figuring out a creative, or clever angle into your story, or your data set, or your press release.

To me, this is the fun part. You might have noticed the origami theme that I've been using for these slides. There is a practical reason for that, because our logo is a colorful origami crane, but I felt that it really fit the message today. Origami is real -- you have to get in there and just do it and make mistakes and that's ok. It resonates with people around the world of all ages. It's very poetic and beautiful. And it's repeatable -- you can follow the steps and get better and better and better.
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Method: Simplify.

The other key to making your stories repeatable, and this is hard, is to simplify -- to strip away, and away, and away until there is nothing left that doesn't matter.

Now this can be really tricky, because especially when you are building your marketing stories, everyone wants to have input, which usually means putting more stuff in. This is often the opposite of simplification.

If you're really focused on your audience and what they will care about (as opposed to what you care about), this process becomes easier.


Let's make it real by looking at a few examples from my work -- and I'd love to hear about some of yours as well.
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Who loves a good founding story? I absolutely do.
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Playing off that origami theme, our founding story involved a complete do-over, as in crumple it up and throw it away. A couple of them actually.

The founders of Haiku Deck started out doing celebrity social gaming, of all things, with a Facebook game themed around Seattle's most famous pre - Macklemore rapper...

Where we started

That's right, Sir Mixalot.
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So here's the thing. They had a great launch and got amazing press coverage, but playing Sir Mixalot themed games was not a problem that needed solving. Nobody really played the game.

So they pivoted, and tried to leverage what they had built into a social video watching site that only really caught on with a few hundred avid Duran Duran fans.

And they pivoted again to try a white-label solution. And the team imploded. And one of the people who left was the designer who made the great slides that had secured the VC funding in the first place.

And they had to make a deck to present to their investors, and it was awful.
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The pain point

Really awful. You know, this kind of awful.

No, this isn't a slide they made but as they struggled, they realized that maybe *this* was the problem that needed solving. Why was it so hard for regular people to create decent-looking slides? Why was the experience so frustrating and so uninspiring? Why did it take so long?
Photo by rikomatic

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And so, Haiku Deck was born.

Simple, beautiful, fun

And the brand took shape around this philosophy of simple, beautiful, fun, which has about as little to do with Sir Mixalot as you could possibly imagine. (Well, he is quite fun, actually.)

Now let's dissect this a bit. It's not the most strategic story, and if I wanted to really exert control, I might talk about how the cofounders used to work at Microsoft and dreamed of infusing presentation software with freshness.

And that wouldn't be 100% not true but really, it's not the most real.
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And let me tell you, this story resonates.

As much as we want to talk about what we're doing now, people love to hear about that early failure and the transformation. It keeps finding its way into headlines.

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Here's another one from Time.

You can read the full article here:


What's at the core of your founding story?


So let's move on to data stories. And wow, do I believe that data needs stories.
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"Humans simply aren't moved by data dumps, dense PowerPoint slides, or spreadsheets packed with figures."

Here's a quote I came across recently that really spoke to me.

Here'sa link to Jonathan Gottschall's book:


Since we launched our iPad app a little over a year ago, we get a lot of requests for new platforms, and we put up a collector on the site to allow people to make a request and get notified.

Now this is exactly the kind of story that the board likes -- you do have to know your audience, and this is the kind of image that evokes emotion.

But the real story that emerged for me is that of about 10,000 people who have signed up, almost 3/4 of them warned to work on their regular computer.

And when I dug a little deeper with some research from our own community, I realized that in many cases it wasn't either/or, it was both.

{You can cast your vote for a new Haiku Deck platform here: http://www.haikudeck.com/#device-survey}

Haiku Deck Web App

And this is why we decided to build our Web App, which is now in private beta, by the way.

But this data also informed the story of the press release we put together -- I do it in Haiku Deck form, of course, and I anchored it in imagery of clouds -- to evoke the freedom and expansiveness of being able to craft your story anytime, anywhere, except on the United flight from Seattle to Houston, which, bizarrely, did not have wifi.

So, same data, different ways to tell the story.


There's certainly a time and a place for hard numbers, but the data points that are so meaningful to us as marketers can easily get lost in the noise.

So I could talk about our community as the 800,000 people who have downloaded the iPad app, or I could talk about it as a vibrant, global creative community that includes everyone...
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...from first graders showcasing their artwork...


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...to the Chief Technology Officer of Australia, who uses Haiku Deck to outline his vision for his country's technology infrastructure. Both are real. One tends to resonate and be repeated a little more than the other.

Here's a link to John Sheridan's Haiku Deck: http://www.haikudeck.com/p/OBa1DcwcnL/the-accordion-effect


I just did a pretty extensive user experience survey, and this is one way of telling that story (and let's be honest, it's kind of they way we are expected to tell the story, and the way we're used to doing it).

More than half

Are extremely likely to recommend Haiku Deck
One thing I like to do is to pull out data points and find great images or quotes that really capture it.

"The simplicity and the ease

in creating presentations is amazing."
I could talk to the fact that many customer quotes validate what we're trying to do with keeping the experience simple, beautiful, and fun.

"I love how easy it is to use.

However, it's limited in how much text I can write and where it's placed."
But that even our most vocal fans sometimes feel a bit too limited.
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"I tried to use it and couldn't figure it out

So I got Keynote which was super user-friendly."
And that for some, it's just not simple at all, despite our intentions.

And this helps craft the story of our next release, which is going to offer more text options, and for our team, because we've been moving at the speed of startup, and we need to do more in-person usability testing.

So, real, resonant, repeatable.
Photo by Gary Faber

What's a data point you could turn into a story?


Now time for my absolute favorite kind of story, customer stories.

And I don't mean customer personas or profiles of your ideal imaginary customer -- I mean real, living breathing human beings who use and love your product.


John James is a Colorado realtor who used Haiku Deck to land a $1.4 million listing.

When I found that out, I called him up and talked to him about his experience, and that unearthed all kinds of gems like this one: "It took me minutes to do with Haiku Deck what I had struggled for hours to do with PowerPoint." And that his clients had chosen him specifically because the way he presented the information was so much easier to understand.

So of course I put this up on our blog and I included it in our ultimate real estate resource guide and I mention it every time to talk to a realtor or do a webinar for Trulia or Inman News.

Full case study here: http://blog.haikudeck.com/how-a-colorado-realtor-used-haiku-deck-to-land-a-...


Rafranz is an incredible math teacher from Dallas and although I've never met her in person, I consider her a friend.

Here's how much she loves Haiku Deck.

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When we couldn't be at ISTE, one of the top EdTech conferences in the nation, she organized a lunch and learn session and got probably 50 educators to show up and share how they use Haiku Deck in the classroom.

Honestly, this was so much better -- so much more real -- than if it had been me down there presenting.



And, Desiree. A few months ago I noticed this one particular deck was getting tons of traffic so I looked it up and found that this Dutch design blogger had used Haiku Deck to deliver the keynote at a big design conference in Berlin and then embedded it on her blog.

I did an email Q&A with her and learned that it was the very first time she had ever used the app. While we were corresponding her deck became the most viewed deck of all time, with 270,000 views and counting.

A here's the story that came out of that -- if Desiree can use the app for the very first time to create the most popular Haiku Deck ever, you can, too. Another data point that's really hiding a great story.

Full case study here: http://blog.haikudeck.com/blogging-case-study-most-popular-haiku-deck-of-al...

Method: Collect your gifts.

So the last method I will leave you with is to collect your gifts, because every great customer story is really a gift. And those stories make your job a lot easier if you have them in your collection.
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What's your favorite customer story?

Make your story...

  • Real
  • Resonant
  • Repeatable
So just to review one more time, make your marketing stories real, resonant, repeatable. It's easier than you think!
Photo by Marie in NC


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I welcome your questions and feedback: Feel free to email me at catherine@haikudeck.com.

I also invite you to join our amazing creative community by downloading our free iPad app {http://bit.ly/1a3xyBY} or requesting a link to our Web App private beta: {http://www.haikudeck.com/#private-beta-signup}.

Photo by beggs