Story Jams

Stop pitching ideas and start telling stories. A simple tool to get your story right, without spending nights on it.

We recently concluded a story jam for a very early stage sustainability driven fin-tech startup. It was a 3 hour session with the founding team. I donned the hat of a jam facilitator probing them to think deeper about their story - the what, how, why and who of their business. At the end of the session, the founder came back expressing how it helped put a lot of things in perspective for them. This wasn't the first time we did such a session, but what was interesting about this one was how much it helped us, a creative studio. Shashank (our creative producer) was mentioning how the take away from this session was going to be handy for us to help the client with relevant, powerful and most importantly quick-turnaround creatives, should they choose to go ahead with us for that work.

It made me go back and think about some of the work that we have done over the last year. There was a clear pattern. Every time we have not done a story jam and have gone ahead building creatives for clients,

  • the process has taken much longer
  • filled with more than usual back and forth
  • ambiguous brand messaging
  • a very worked up and vexed designer, by the end of the project

I dug a little deeper to understand what prevented us from doing these jams with all our clients. The answer? Time pressure.

Caption Credit: Danny Shanahan, Conde Nast Art Collections

As with most service run businesses, we are no strangers to the term 'We need this as of yesterday' 🙂  And since we value the opportunity to work with the client over anything else, we drop everything else and proceed rapidly. While our process of engaging involves a detailed briefing session/jam; in reality, when clients are under time-crunch, they expect us to start core work on the project (say, shoot a video) rather than sit for a few hours and storyboard. In hindsight, I believe we could have done better in many of these projects, had we been able to convince our clients on this 3 hr jam! Not only would we have gotten better outcomes, but at a much faster pace too.

"Something is missing in this video; I am not sure what, though"
"I don't think the look and feel is exactly in line with our brand"
"This is not strong enough a post to get people excited"
"This is nice, but, it doesn't resonate with our audience"

These sound relatable? If yes, your problem, probably, was not the agency/freelancer you worked with. It had more to do with the process. You need a story jam and one that gets you and your creative team working on the same page. So, what's a story jam?

In short, it is an intense brainstorming session where you go back to basics and answer questions on what you do, why you do what you do, how you do (process/procedure), who your specific target audiences are, what alternate options do these audience have, what differentiates you and so on. Honestly, it is intuitive and you would know all your answers. But, having somebody drive this session for you with your team, will bring to light, how differently everybody in your team looks at all these questions. And, aligning with your team and eventually with your creative partner will be the success metric for this jam. Oh, we call it a jam, because it is quick, time-bound and action-oriented.

The idea of writing this was to make organisations realise that at times, it is okay to spend a few hours in prepping before jumping into the deep end of the pool. Especially when something creative is involved, having an independent entity help you think objectively about your brand and messaging becomes crucial. So, before you spend time, money and effort on building the next creative assets for your brand, make sure you get your messaging and story right, not just for yourself but also for your creative agency/team.

- Sriram Sabhapathy, Founder, LastBench Studio

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