How South Park Will Bring Your Employer Brand to Life3 min read.
Continuing our look at story-telling architecture, we examine the And, But, Therefore structure, an innovation of South Park creator Trey Parker…
The creation of an employer brand story should result in a compelling narrative that paints a clear picture of the reality of an organisation, preferably with emotion and resonance.
By doing that you will make a connection that will help a candidate decide if they are the right fit for the role and the company offering it to them.
Sounds great but, although your research groups may have uncovered some interesting personal stories, turning them into a compelling narrative requires structure and skill.
Step forward, South Park creator, Trey Parker.
His ‘And, But, Therefore’ story technique is one of the simplest and most fun techniques to use, and the most valuable means of bringing your brand pillars to life by specifying each value exchange found within the pillar to a Give and a Get.
He writes every episode of South Park as quickly as he can, in a stream of consciousness. Once he's done, he goes back over the plot in the script looks for the word ‘And’ and tries to change it to either a ‘But’ or a ‘Therefore’, creating challenges, conflict, and opportunities for resolution.
ABT is the most concise and densely packed story structure in the world. Each ABT presents an act of the story. So, it's the easiest way to introduce an act into any narrative, whilst ensuring it encompasses the vital components that qualify as a story
- And represents thesis, the present, regular state
- But represents antithesis, change and/or conflict
- Therefore represents synthesis, resolution.
And, But, Therefore in action
Seems like a tiny tweak and subtle addition of a couple of words. However, without the structural change, there's no point to the initial narrative.
Here’s how it works, applied to the cult classic film, Withnail and I.
Withnail and Marwood (the I of the title) are two out of work actors.
AND they live in a freezing, squalid, flat and are broke, BUT seem to be able to gather enough money for booze and drugs.
With no sign of gainful employment AND beset by chemically induced paranoia and hatred of the locals, they decide to “get out of it for a bit”. THEREFORE they call on Withnail’s uncle Monty, for the use of his house in the countryside for a break.
Arriving in torrential rain, in their clapped-out Jaguar, they manage to get into the house, BUT discover they are hopelessly under-resourced and ill-prepared with even the most basic survival skills.
THEREFORE, they attempt to scavenge the rudiments from the locals BUT fall foul of the local poacher Jake, who seems to have a murderous intent for them.
Later that night, AND fearful of Jake’s vengeance, they cower under the covers after hearing someone break in. BUT it isn’t Jake. Instead, they discover that it is Withnail’s uncle Monty who has come laden with much-needed supplies of fine wine and food.
BUT he has amorous intentions towards Marwood, who THEREFORE spends the rest of the weekend fighting off his advances.
BUT Marwood discovers he must leave, having been offered the lead in a play elsewhere, THEREFORE the pair return to London.
After getting absurdly high for one last time, Withnail walks the newly spruced up Marwood to the station as he leaves for his new job AND they say an emotional goodbye in the rain in Regents Park Zoo, where Withnail, alone with just a bottle of wine and a cage of wolves for company, movingly recites a soliloquy from Hamlet…“what is this quintessence of dust? etc.”.
ABT in Loglines
You can find another ABT in the trailers for films that usually have a guy with a really deep voice beginning with “In a world….” They are called Loglines and are a good example of an ABT storyline.
Here’s how one is structured.
Coming from a world where…
The hero commits to…
The hero must learn…
In time to…
So the hero can…
Notice the And, the But and right at the end you could substitute the So for a Therefore. It’s an ABT.
If we apply that technique to an employer brand pillar once we know we have all the building blocks of the employee experience, it becomes a powerful way of creating a meaningful Give and Get.
The Angels' Cocktail of storytelling
Comms and storytelling expert David ‘JP’ Phillips delivers a talk that describe his ‘Angels Cocktail’ of neurochemicals and hormones that can be generated through certain types of storytelling to create a positive intellectual and emotional mindset.
If you can deliver a story that raises levels of serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine (The Angels Cocktail) you will really engage your audience.
All stories will raise dopamine levels, which increase focus and imagination, but a suspenseful story does this best. If you want to create more oxytocin, tell emotional stories that build trust and empathy with your audience. Human stories. And lastly, to increase levels of endorphins like serotonin, it’s humour that is best employed, relaxing people, and making them more creative.
To create a clear EVP for each employer brand pillar, it's important to spell out the value exchange and the intrinsically linked Give and Get with credible consequences between what's expected from an employee and what they stand to gain. We want to be able to illustrate what the employee experience is really like and what it takes to both survive and thrive.
Essentially, it is what’s possible if you're willing to put in the effort, work, sacrifice, learning or commitment.
For each pillar in your employer brand, it is highly unlikely you will find examples of all the building blocks you need. However, if you can break a pillar down into all its component parts and organise them into the relevant ABT categories (A, B or T), you're more than halfway toward articulating your pillar EVP in a compelling story format.