Months ago, I was greatly inspired by a UXMatters series called, “A MacGuyver Approach to Content Strategy” by Lis Hubert and Donna Lichaw. The authors adapted literary story-mapping to the development of content to improve the customer experience of a client.
We hear about how great “storytelling” is all of the time lately. A lot of this content is pretentious and shallow to me. It’s just people jumping onto the “lets talk about storytelling” bandwagon.
The UXMatters exercise is different. It actually incorporates storytelling infrastructure to the content-building process.
In other words, Hubert and Lichaw walk the walk and talk the talk.
The second article of the series outlines a typical story map: Exposition, Inciting Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution, etc.. The authors juxtapose this model over a user path/experience exercise to identify ways to improve the customer experience over a multi-day workshop.
Trying It Myself
I conducted the same exercise with a telecommunications product of my current employer.
My employer has an Event Wi-Fi product that’s very popular with the technical crowd of Portland, OR. We’re a smaller crew with a few other wireless products to support. The events product tends to be on the “back burner” support-wise.
I figure it would be a great product to use for this experiment.
I applied Hubert and Lichaw’s narrative arc model over our current customer experience for the event product’s on-boarding and support experience. Gaps for improvement immediately appeared and basically laid out a new tale for me to follow.
Hubert and Lichaw’s Example
I added existing initiatives across the narrative arc model. I also added new, critical initiatives that can improve the event wi-fi customer experience.
NOTE: Items in ORANGE are existing elements that need much improvement. Items in RED are elements we need to implement.
The narrative arc emphasizes the engagement context into the customer experience. Great tales and essays build upon tension and challenges until their resolution. The exercise highlights this climax/resolution intent on a macro level.
As I filled out the arc, I kept asking myself the following:
“Does it currently exist?”
“Is this engaging?”
“Is it sustainable?”
If I answered NO to any of the above, I wanted to find out how to make it so (hence the red or orange statuses).
Our existing events landing page and brand outreach content is the Exposition part of this journey. These assets set the stage for the story.
Examples of failure in the industry represent the story’s tension, or Inciting Incident. Our solutions and case studies represent the heroic fight against that challenge.
Once again, case studies represent steps for solving the overall crisis of the customer (overcoming crappy wi-fi). Engagement and on-boarding also feels like part of that crisis– the energy and journey of delivering an answer for our customer.
The climax is deploying and supporting event wi-fi for the customer. Our denouement is typically a debrief and survey about how we can improve our services.
This was a quick and dirty example of the exercise. For a much thorough case study, please read Hubert and Lichaw’s series at UXMatters.
My quick exercise yielded some AHA moments and identified places where our content could be much better. It lends enough confidence to add this exercise to my personal methodology for use on a larger scale. For any content strategist looking for ways to improve their methodology or assets over time, it’s exercises like this that feel like small wins and fuel professional confidence.
Placing the narrative arc over the customer experience forces the brain to solve for engagement and excitement across all content assets. It becomes the brand’s duty to create a way for meaningful engagement and tension-building across the customer journey.
Support Content Is As Exciting as Outreach
Internal processes and support content can lend as much excitement to the overall “story” as the usual call-to-action outreach elements. Support content solves issues and brings peace of mind to customers.
It resolves conflict and can ultimately achieve a narrative climax in the customer experience. If the result is solving the overall pain of the customer’s journey and their relationship with you, it’s a win. In my example, it’s solving for crappy event wi-fi.
I’d love to reproduce this exercise on a larger scale, much like the original authors did with their two-day workshop. For now, I’ll take this quick win and add to my to-do list.
I hope I inspire others to try this exercise out as well. It’s worth the time.
As always, feedback welcome.
Header image: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, property of Square-Enix.