Me and Bobby McKee: My Day on the Island with Hollywood’s #1 Story Expert

Valetta, Malta, late November. It’s an evening at the end of one of those days. Summer has finally lost his last fight against Jack Frost, reinvigorated by Judas Autumn, his beautiful, deceptive seasonal companion. Stealing the remaining rays of warmth from the year’s sunny season for his own colourful performance. Just to lose his beauty to master Winter with the blow of a November wind. The last moment before the days become grey and miserable, foggy and wet, cold.

Nature’s true game of thrones, a drama of expectation, surprise, and change, story in repetition mode. A perfect platform, autumn the perfect time of year, an island the perfect location for a very unique scene, at least in my life story …

A November day in Valetta, Malta (copyright:

Clouds over Valetta. Nature’s Game of Thrones in the Mediterranean. (copyright:

… Dinner with Robert McKee, one of the world’s most renowned, respected and successful story teachers, accompanied by his wife and my dear friend and story consultant James McCabe. Great food and even greater Maltese wine were the witnesses of an evening of lively and inspiring discussions about, naturally, all stories great and small, good and bad. About stories from Hollywood, McKee’s professional backyard, behind and in front of the scenes (very interesting to a provincial Bavarian story lover like me!); about movies galore; about the rise of sophisticated and elaborate TV series like Breaking Bad (the best ever produced, I recall McKee raving, that was some common ground to start an evening on!), and … about the poor state our world is in when it comes to business stories.

From Hollywood Entertainment to Malta Business

"Write the Truth", he told me.

“Write the Truth”, he told me.

Robert McKee is not only Hollywood’s #1 story expert and creative writing instructor: His seminal book “STORY” is as famous and well-reviewed as his four-day “Story Seminar” is legendary, a must-attend guide for every ambitious (screen)writer willing to learn the craft or recall its essence. I have yet to judge this for myself, but allegedly 410 of his alumni have won Golden Globes, Academy Awards and many other renowned prizes. Not bad. Alumni like LOTR’s Peter Jackson go into rapture saying things like “McKee is the Guru of Gurus of Storytelling” (whatever a storytelling guru is…), or John Cleese who less guru-ishly claims: “It’s an amazingly important course that I’ve gone back to do three times.” Not bad either.

McKee has as of late also embarked upon the effort to transfer his knowledge and expertise in fiction story (mainly designed for entertainment purposes) to the sphere of business, corporate communications and marketing – storytelling with the slightly altered purpose of not only telling, but actually selling something, products and ideas, by means of entertainment. (Ideally. Mostly though, the State of the Business Story Union suggests that these means are currently mainly boredom, repetition and tutelage.)

McKee’s seminar builds upon one major notion: That companies are not abstract enterprises, they are not their portfolios; they are their employees. And these employees are actual human beings, people creating and experiencing stories every day. Only: They’re simply not telling them, rather burying them on power- and pointless PPT’s, vertiginous data sheets, and propaganda wolves in a press release’s sheep skin.

Robert McKee.

Frowning at the sight of too many appalling business stories? Robert McKee’s helping overcome self-centred corporate communication and marketing nightmares. (copyright:

Businesses must shift from “We” to “You”.

So, there’s a urgent need for action here, a demand that McKee has identified and tries to answer with his “Storynomics Seminar”, which premiered under the then name “Story in Business” (which I find much more intuitive, to be honest) in Valetta, Malta, on above-mentioned autumn day.

Upfront: I sincerely believe that endeavours like this should be on the mandatory training list of EVERY person responsible for communications and marketing, from one-man enterprises to multi-national companies. Actually, while I’m thinking about it: slam McKee business story seminar it into the PMP files of every manager attempting to lead in a meaningful and not just power-centric way!

And why? Cos it’s good. Not perfect yet, but really a great start to break up fossilized PR and Marketing dinosaurs, and introduce them to a world where people are people and not abstract target groups, people that indeed WANT to embark upon meaningful dialogue with people from companies (not the companies!), for whatever purpose.

Here are a couple of notes I made, ideas and impulses that I got from that one day in Valetta – they’re pretty spot-on and need no further commentary:

  • Everyone has storytelling skills, it’s natural. It only got erased by the way we are trained in schools.
  • Very little in life that really matters can be measured.
  • Facts are not the truth. Facts are what happens. Truth is how and why things happen.
  • The only thing our mind is really interested in, is change. And change is NOT activity.
  • Story means “learning by inquiry”.
  • A story needs a violation of expectation.
  • The business malady of “solutionism” ignores life, ignores duality and ambiguity. Most corporations suffer from “negaphobia”.
  • A good (business) story gives the audience insights into their own life, it makes wise use of the “like me” effect.
  • Before you can find your story’s character(s), you need to know who you are as a company. The spirit of every story a company tells needs to fit into its identity.
  • Businesses must shift the pronoun from “We” to “You”.
  • Let the events tell the story. Events are much stronger than the commentary on events.


A little less conversation, a little more (inter)action, please.

The seminar is structured into three parts: Story Purpose, Story Design, Story Telling. McKee convincingly demonstrates the principles of a good story that “serves its purpose” (be that entertainment or a trip down the sales funnel), mechanisms are the same everywhere. A story is a story is a story. With many a business video example, good and bad, reinforces the fact that “story is a metaphor for life”, hence also business life. Very illustrative, very stringent, very substantial, at times maybe a little dogmatic, definitely too much from-stage-to-audience style, and unfortunately almost completely interaction-free (apart from a pre-structured Q&A session at the end). Granted, this is probably the maximum you can do in the course of just one day with such a fundamental topic.

Still: While his screenwriting reputation and Hollywood expertise is the greatest asset and perspective-changing element of this lecture, it’s also maybe the cause for its only weakness, or let’s rather call it room for improvement. I really feel that it’s an opportunity wasted for McKee to have so many interested business people in a room hanging on his lips for story expert advice and only TELL them stuff, and not let them experience it themselves. Not just transfer fiction story mechanics to business story in a demonstrative way, but let them experience it hands-on.

Corporate dinosaurs need more than one day to be story-empowered

Maybe invite a co-lecturer or break-out session lead who actually has extensive experience of working INSIDE and just WITH companies, for the benefit of the much-aspired “like me” effect. To share this business expert’s experiences, especially in terms of overcoming organisational hurdles and convincing notorious nay-sayers nevertheless. Let the audiences maybe even work on short business story challenges amongst themselves, so they don’t just see and hear how it’s done, but can actually do it and feel it. Turn it from a lecture into a true seminar where PR and Marketing professionals are not only evangelized but actually enabled and empowered to go back to their desks and produce their first-ever real business story.

That would probably turn the one-day event into a two- or three-day event. But so what? Why not? Business story lecturing is faced with far crustier mindsets than the entertainment sector where disciples already know the Why’s and want to learn the How’s. Corporate dinosaurs need convincing before you can even get to the tutorial, the hands-on learning part. And that requires more than a day, and more story engagement spice in the story telling soup.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”, Churchill once said.

So please continue, Bobby McKee! And thanks for great insights – and great wine.



“Randnotizen”: Side notes on a world gone mad.


alles verfügbar, hier und jetzt
nichts offen, kein wunsch verletzt
kaum erblickt, schon gezückt
fremdwort sehnen.

regale voll, nasen auch
volle köpfe, fetter bauch
kaum erblickt, schon gebückt
alle münder gähnen.


homo analogus ausgestorben
pixeliges grab schon ausgehoben
suchen gesterns kinder heut nach glück
stück für stück mit blick zurück
doch da ist nichts mehr
außer randnotizen.
im sand.
im meer.

©herrdennehy, 2014.

“Schreiben nach Hebdo”: The World is Grey. And Grey is Beautiful.

Impressions in Grey.


„Shades of grey wherever I go

The more I find out the less that I know

Black and white is how it should be

But shades of grey are the colors I see.“

(Billy Joel)

Charlie Hebdo, even the name Charlie alone, has become a sad chiffre for the state of the world we’re in – or maybe have always been. On January 7, 2015, at 11:30 AM, the world stood still for a second, probably even changed irreversibly. Once again.

Like on September 11, 2001.

Like on November 10, 1938.

Dates scarred into modern conscience, because they marked the end of worlds as we knew them. Once again.

Watching the unbelievable Paris scenes, enduring the multitude of talk shows that spilt over our TV screens like the inevitable vomit after a serious case of food poisoning, I could actually physically feel the caesura this event means for Europe, just like 9/11 for the USA. For better or worse, only history will tell.

Stereotypes will grow, prejudices will thrive, the legislative and especially executive countermeasures to serve the earlier will be scarily en vogue. Left, right. Muslim, Christian, Jew. Black and White.

Blueprint “Schreiben nach Auschwitz”

Writing about anything else in the aftermath of the Hebdo murders felt like an impossibility to me, inappropriate, even an act of blasphemy in a strictly non-religious sense.

Posts on communication and marketing trends in 2015 were on the storycodeX to-write list in early January – as for many a net writer interested in this stuff. Topics like the rivalry of Content Marketing and Brand Journalism. Like the true meaning of Content. Or Doc Searls’ and David Weinberger’s “New Clues”, but … just wouldn’t work. It’s like the author’s fingers refused to type, forced their tips to the West, to France, to the city of love.

Emotional thoughts and thoughtful emotions that somehow drew me towards a re-read of a speech by Günter Grass, held as part of his poetry lecture at Goethe University in Frankfurt in 1990. Its title: “Schreiben nach Auschwitz”. In his speech, Grass not only elaborates on his literary story and stories, but also makes a critical reference to Theodor W. Adorno’s discourse “Minima Moralia” as well as the infamous and often over-exaggeratingly dogmatized claim “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht schreiben ist barbarisch” from his 1951 essay “Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft – Gedichte nach Auschwitz”. The full context of this quote goes as follows:

“Kulturkritik findet sich der letzten Stufe der Dialektik von Kultur und Barbarei gegenüber: nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch, und das frisst auch die Erkenntnis an, die ausspricht, warum es unmöglich ward, heute Gedichte zu schreiben. Der absoluten Verdinglichung, die den Fortschritt des Geistes als eines ihrer Elemente voraussetzte und die ihn heute gänzlich aufzusaugen sich anschickt, ist der kritische Geist nicht gewachsen, solange er bei sich bleibt in selbstgenügsamer Kontemplation.”


It might seem a far-fetched, lame mental leap from World War II to the afterbirth’s of Al Qaida and ISIS, but mental leaps always are, and are allowed, maybe even meant to be. So here’s mine:

Granted, the extent and magnitude of the Nazi terror that forever displayed to the world the ugly grimace of human abyss is by no means comparable with anything we see happening in the name of Allah by a fanatic, blinded-by-hate extremist minority of an otherwise peaceful religion today. Not yet, that is.

Also, the apparent historic facts of the lurching Weimar Republic and today’s crumbling century-old models of life in many parts of the world, not only in the Middle East and Africa, seem to hold little resemblance.

And the respective motives for launching terroristic machinery are quite different. On the outside at least.

On the inside it’s always about power, money, and religion in a wider sense.

NAZISIS – Same Illness, Different Symptoms

Still there are parallels, alarmingly terrifying parallels, between what took its beginning in Germany’s 1933, in a time of ubiquitous uncertainty, political and economic fragility, susceptibility towards extremism, and the rise of organizations like Al Qaida and ISIS. In the end, it’s the promise of a better life for the faithful and devout, a better world, even a better death and afterlife, killing and dying for a greater good.

I figure a young, frustrated, unemployed, sidelined man with no role in society, no prospect for a future, in disharmony with the world, approached by someone seemingly larger than life, promising wealth, meaning and purpose, to serve a cause … and off the soldiers march.

I figure the constant human need to find bogeymen for their own misery, the all-too-human suspicion of everything and everybody different, and how it’s always easier to blame others than yourself. And if you then even get the official mandate to punish those others … off the soldiers march.

I figure the damage that fanatism and the colors Black and White have always done, the pain and the suffering they have created, always for seemingly greater goods, proclaimed by charismatic mindfuckers using people to kill people, turning them into blind-folded soldiers … soldiers that march off to wherever they are told.

Self-sufficient Contemplation – The Death of Civil Courage

While drawing parallels between the spoilt acronyms NAZI and ISIS, and bringing them closer together for thorough examination seems like a worthwhile topic for a Bachelor or Masters thesis in Political Science, Cultural Science or History (that would certainly do this idea more resilient justice than my unstructured, initial thoughts here), the author is drawn back to Adorno and a key phrase in above quote in relation to writing after Auschwitz, after 9/11, after Hebdo: “Selbstgenügsame Kontemplation”, probably best translated as “self-sufficient contemplation”, the enemy of the skeptical, questioning intellect.

Maybe self-centered contemplation is indeed even the death of civil courage, the end of questioning, the end of insurgency. To read about such tragedies and incredibilities, watch them on TV, maybe follow a hashtag that makes you feel engaged, yet de facto going on with your life as if nothing had happened. To go on with writing about meaningless bullshit like content strategies and the best way to fill people’s heads with marketing shit they don’t want to see, at places where they don’t want to be bothered, by companies they care for even less after being menaced. Gosh, how many newsletters or tweets or Linked-In group posts did I receive right after Paris, and how many of them made me think “Why the hell is this important now???”.

I agree, life goes on, and life changes as it does – that’s probably the only constant we can really rely on. And the probability that also will return to the path it initially set out on is high. Still, sometimes it’s simply time to pause for a moment, take a grateful look around at your own life, your own health and wealth, at the freedom of speech we enjoy, a privilege that should never be taken for granted, a freedom that none of us post-war kids ever did anything for, nothing that makes us actually deserve it. It was given to us a gift by our parents and grandparents, and we need to fight for it, now and forever.

But not by all means, not with uninformed impulses, and never in a way that serves delusional superiority over others, never with a sense of Black or White, but with a dialectic appreciation of the beauty of Grey, the manifold shades of which much better represent our world and everything that has ever happened, everything that is happening right now, and everything that will ever happen. The world is grey, and should we ever learn how great it is that there are always two sides to a coin, that this is what makes life rich and exciting, only then will we be able to do what – let’s be honest – everybody wants: to live in peace and enjoy life.

Light at the Grey Horizon

“Der Verzicht auf reine Farbe”

Günter Grass concludes his speech in Frankfurt and his reference to Adorno (whose famous quote he also, at first, misunderstood as a prohibiting verdict) with the retrospect cognition that his own (and his fellow post-war writers’) literary output would never have been possible without the leaden weight of history, and for him personally without the weight of Adorno’s verdict. In his own reading, Grass notes that “diese Vorschrift verlangte Verzicht auf reine Farbe; sie schrieb das Grau und dessen unendliche Schattierungen vor.” (Grass, Schreiben nach Ausschwitz, 1999.)

Or as Billy Joel put it three years later:

„Shades of grey are all that I find

When I look to the enemy line

Black and white was so easy for me

But shades of grey are the colors I see.“

(Billy Joel, 1993)




“The Deserted Park Bench Jacket”: Perspectives on a story with many plots …

Stories are everywhere around us. In every part and place of our lives.

Only: we are often much too busy to see them. Too blinkered by life’s challenges, the haste of getting from A to B, the illusion that life is a to-do list, and idleness evil.

Open senses are all it takes to escape this gridlock that makes so many of us unhappy; open eyes open up new perspectives.

Here’s a story (or rather a couple of possible plots) I literally stumbled upon while running in a close-by park – not away from anything, not towards anything, actually in circles, letting my thoughts do the same.

It’s the story of this deserted park bench jacket.


*Disclaimer: I didn’t put it there for this post.;)

My circling mind started asking: How did it get there? Where does it comes from? Who and where is the man (was it a man, just because it’s a man’s jacket?) who left it there? And why did he do it?

Plot #1:
The jacket belonged to a homeless man. Lying there, taking a rest from life’s endless atrocities and perpetual failed hopes. Fell asleep in the first rays of warm sunlight surrounded by the colour of hope after yet another night in the rainy cold, looking for shelter, in vain. Hungry, thirsty, desperate, and so terribly tired, tired of life. When, after many hours of peaceful slumber, he was approached by strollers checking on him, he didn’t move. An ambulance was called, but arrived only to find out that the nameless man had passed away, covered by death’s cold hand in the late morning sun. Who was this man? What was his story? Which conflicts and pitfalls in his life brought him to this lonely park bench? And why was the jacket still there?

Plot #2.
The jacket belonged to a man in his mid-forties who had been sitting there, trying to collect his thoughts, agonizing over the best way (if there was one) to avert the imminent drama in his life. The U-turn it was about to take, inflicted only by his own stupidity of cheating on his wife. After all that they had been through, one single moment of vain joy now thwarted it all. Would he ever see her again, his son? After his confession and pleas for forgiveness, honest, but (to her) lame promises, she had thrown him out of their house. Marital silence ever since, he was sleeping at a friend’s place. Suddenly, on his walk through the park, mixing fresh air with chain smoke, his phone rang. It was her. Asking if they could meet. Right away. He jumped up in incredulous joy, already on his way while she was still on the phone, completely forgetting his jacket. A happy ending?

Plot #3:
The jacket belonged to a business man who had messed with the wrong people. Pushing his luck for the deal of his life with different parties, closing the bargain with the one side, pissing off the other, like real. And the other party was not the one to piss off. A thing he didn’t know, but was soon to find out on his daily walk in the park to work. The three thugs came out of nowhere, dashing from a blind spot … and then his world went black. Who was / is this man? Is he still alive? Does he have a family? What was the deal about, and what was really behind this ambush? And why did the jacket stay there while its owner has gone missing ever since?

Sounds like fiction? Sure it does, I just made it up. But .. only maybe. Do we know? Do we know ANYTHING about the world around us, our neighbours, every-day passers-by on our way to work?

Maybe the deserted bench jacket story was much more prosaic than this, maybe someone just accidentally left it there while taking his lunch break in the sunny park, fiddling around with his smart phone, then running off in a hurry to get back to work on time. Maybe just someone who didn’t want this shabby jacket anymore, too lazy to throw it into the used-clothes container?

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

There a story behind everything. And everyone’s story has its intriguing moments, twists and surprises. It’s just a question of taking a closer look, a question of perspective, of attitude.

And there is definitely some story up this jacket’s sleeve, behind its former owner for sure. Oh and: next morning the jacket was gone … Woohaah!

After all: Life is stranger than fiction.

The Lopsided Love Story of Mister G. and Mister D., Part 3: The Mix Tape (that changed my life)


Somewhere between getting lost in transmedia and celebrating AOL („Annual Offline Leave“ – you should try it, helps you understand what Lennon meant when he said that “life is what happens while you’re tweeting” … or something like that), I remembered that I wanted to relive the part of my life when a mix tape (o.k., it was a mix CD, but that sounds so … unromantic, so modern, although the round thing itself is already square) actually changed my life. And at the same time catapulted my relationship with Mister G. to another level of intensity.

It started, as it often does, at work. The place where you spend most of your time, and sometimes are lucky enough to meet interesting people with whom you want to be a little more than colleagues – well aware of the company’s ink saying, but what the heck.

That’s where I met her, over 10 years ago now. And, of course, I mean look at her: She already had a boyfriend. Grrrr. What to expect? So it was waiting mode for God knows how long, felt like decades, which sounds pretty “100 Years of Solitute”-like romantic, but was in fact a couple of months, to be honest. Still … an eternity.

Eventually, not in vain.

The tide was turning, the dark knight’s access to the princess’ castle finally denied, for whatever reason, what should I care? This was my “Over The Top” moment, the knight in white satin’s imaginary baseball cap going in reverse, a unique moment and chance in time that I answered with …

… this mix tape (aka CD) titled “Something Beautiful”.

It contained a hell of a collection of songs, broad hint with a capital B. It was clandestinely handed over by a good, discreet and conspiratorial friend … and then the waiting began. Again.

Decades passed.

Naturally, every one of the selected songs had its own story, a story in itself, a story for me, but also a connection to many of the stories that my Queen of Hearts to-be had been going through (as I had heard through the grape-vine and witnessed as a sideline observer). So hopes were high for a favourable, comprehending, comprehensive and, from a music and lyric lover’s perspective, appropriate reaction. A reaction that would show whether she was the right one. A simple “Oh, thanks” would have been just as disappointing as her not liking the kind of music her stalker was offering her, maybe even selecting the wrong, meaning most obvious song as her favourite one, one of those I had chosen from a “she’ll definitely love this one” perspective.

"something beautiful" Broad hint track list


BUT … after waiting an appropriate while before even answering to this unasked-for present, she immediately named THE one song as her favourite that I had indeed put on this compilation as a kind of test balloon to check whether our two clocks were ticking in synch. THE one song that was my favourite song, from my favourite singer, expressing my favourite mood … a massive Broad hint from destiny. Or so I wanted to interpret it.

And the song was … “Sail Away” by David Gray. A song that has never been the same ever since, has probably reached an unsurpassable pool position on the past ten year’s hot rotation lists, has bestowed on us a very special moment at Mister G.’s 2006 concert in Munich, and has been the “Honey Call” tune on my mobile since mobile phones could read mp3’s.

Who knows, maybe without this joint Sail Away passion, we would never have gone out, never have kissed, never have, never have, never have …

OK, probably, if it was really meant to be in the first place, we would have gone out and done all that other stuff anyway, even if she’d had named the eponymous Robbie Williams song that found its way onto “Something Beautiful”.

I prefer the Sail Away story.

True story, true love.

 Sail away with me honey

I put my heart in your hands

Sail away with me honey now, now now.


Holiday … Celebrate … and be grateful, if you can!

It’s that time of the year again, at least in my part of the world. It’s called holiday season, some call it vacation, some annual leave. I like all three of these words:

HOLIDAY = A couple of Holy Days away from everyday life and stress and worries and troubles, or – if you have no troubles – simply a holy time out.

VACATION = A couple of Vacant Days, vacant of everyday life and stress and worries and troubles.

ANNUAL LEAVE = The time of the year when you are able and allowed to leave it all behind, leave everyday life and stress and worries and troubles simply be. In German we say “Den Herrgott einen guten Mann sein lassen.”

That’s where I’m heading: My annual leave time, holy days with family and without digital devices or at least online services, my time that is vacant of what is “normal” – a time that is needed to reboot, to fuel offline thoughts, experience new, non-transmedia stories, stories that will lead to new stories when I re-enter the normality sphere again.

And my time to thank God or this Herrgott (or whoever that is watching over us, but I tend to call him / her that based on a lack of alternatives, or is it just a habit?) that I am in the fortunate position to be able to actually have a normality to leave behind for another holiday-vacation-leave anormality. In times when there are wars raging in over 45 countries on this planet, senseless, meaningless wars that leave behind so many people who would give their lives to experience my normality, the normality I’m fleeing from right now.

It’s a cruel world. Not much I can do about it from here, but it does help to bring everyday life and stress and worries and troubles into perspective. Sure, everything is relative, but still.

I know that I can be happy to be allowed to be happy and healthy – and able to experience stories that are not life-threatening dramas.

Thank you.

Happy Holidays!



Will Transmedia eat itself for lunch? Or is it the end of Storytelling as we know it?

S T O R Y T E L L I N G …
probably mankind’s oldest communication megatrend.

T R A N S M E D I A …
probably one of the most used communication megatrend buzzwords in mankind’s recent history.

T R A N S M E D I A  S T O R Y T E L L I N G …
probably the most promising combination of communication megatrends for the future.

Some may ask: “WTF’s that supposed to be again???”

Here’s an attempt from The Source of Internet Wisdom:

“Transmedia storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multiplatform storytelling) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.

From a production standpoint, it involves creating content that engages an audience using various techniques to permeate their daily lives. In order to achieve this engagement, a transmedia production will develop stories across multiple forms of media in order to deliver unique pieces of content in each channel. Importantly, these pieces of content are not only linked together (overtly or subtly), but are in narrative synchronization with each other.


A lot of story stuff involved, so I tend to like it, naturally. But also a lot of (digital) technology, channels, platforms. So, really something new? Or just an evolution version of our oldest megatrend, a Storytelling x.0?

Let’s take a look at where the concept stems from:

Transmedia as an idea of collaborative, multi-platform creation and narration origins in the 70’s and 80’s of the last century, in the area of telematic art, where artists experimented with collaborative narration and defined the idea of transmedia.

It soon moved on to the gaming industry, creating so-called Alternate Reality Games (ARG). These are  games that, based on the Internet as a main hub, use(d) multiple other technological platforms like telephones, email and real offline mail to tell and simultaneously create different parts of the game’s story in those medial habitats relevant to the players. So not just transmedia telling,  but transmedia engagement that requires interaction from every gamer in order to bring the game’s plot to the next level. In other words: “Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and collaborate as a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.” (Wikipedia) An early example being Ong’s Hat.

The next transmedia stop was cinema, bringing the whole idea of alternate realities not only to the screen itself (where we had long been used to getting immersed in alternate worlds), but also connecting these to our real, every day lives. The most prominent example certainly being 1999’s “Blair Witch Project”:


This was not only a mocumentary, i.e. a piece of fiction pretending to be documentary, but also accompanied by a variety of additional, supporting pieces of content such as faked diaries, police reports or interviews that in itself engaged the audience in a captivating manner, adding to the cinema story’s apparent verisimilitude.

That was 15 years ago, and just the beginning …

Since a couple of years, also the commercial world of business communications has started to smell the rat? As always, the more consumer-oriented businesses are on the fore-front here with pioneers like Nike or Lego, but it won’t be long before the so-called B2B world will catch up.

So what could all of this mean for business communications and marketing? What can we learn from arts and entertainment?

I recently read this article on that instinctively made me want to caution a “because we can” attitude that often pairs with technological advancements. The article basically was about the next big thing in cinema and henceforth modern storytelling. Not an R&D future project, but already on the audiences’ threshold.

The article begins with a short analysis of the film “APP”. is the first-ever movie that was written and produced with a 2nd-screen experience in mind, regularly adding content to your phone app while the of the film’s content unfolds on the traditional 1st cinema screen, and thus interrupting the movie’s actual narration.

Hmm, I thought.

Do I like this? Not too sure.

I’ll have to find out…


The article moves on with a glimpse into the labs of Disney’s experiments. These are currently limited to 2nd-screen “content interruptions” to back-catalog films like “The Little Mermaid”, but plans are to integrate the transmedia storytelling idea into the initial screen writing of future film productions.

Hmm, I thought, again.

Ambiguity crawling in …

The angel (or is it the devil?) on my shoulder says something like Yalda Uhl who states that “it is very important to engage children in a narration, and that is very difficult to do nowadays with all the distractions and stimulations that surround them. Adding a distraction in cinemas will definitely not help studios to achieve their goal of creating value or attracting an audience that will return to the cinema in the future”. Yes, says the angel (or devil)! REDUCE the distractions! Foster concentration spans! Concentrate on true narration and storytelling to immerse audiences in your story! Don’t just do stuff, because you technically can, audiences will soon get tired and will want to go back to good old traditional storytelling! Transmedia will eat itself for lunch! I knew it!

Then there’s this devil (or angel?) on the other shoulder talking about “story engagement” instead of boring one-way “story telling”. Making it clear to me that the potential of transmedia entertainment and the disruption of handed-down reception models is not only exiting, but in fact the only way to go. For entertainment as much as for business communications, both of them dealing with humans in the end. That today’s young and thus tomorrow’s adult generation will continue to literally gag for regular interruptions in their lives’ routines … and that linear, beginning-to-end storytelling is over, that no one will listen anymore, if there’s not more interactive engagement, audience involvement and multi-channel disruption.

Listening to both of them I begin to see, as with many things, there will be developments that we can’t stop, that will simply happen (because we CAN and because we as humans will simply WANT it), whether I personally like them or not.

Maybe the following


can help steer technological developments into the right direction:

Not matter which medium, no matter how many of them; not matter how fragmented and scattered:  A well-told, convincing narration offering a high degree of the “Like Me” effect will always work. It doesn’t have to be chronological, but it needs Expectation, Surprise, Conflict and Change. What will change is the people who will create this expectation, add the surprise and conflict spice, foster the narration’s change – this will not be a classical narrator instance anymore, this will be multiple parties engaging in different parts of a story from different angles and perspectives, in different places. But a story it will still be.

No matter what technological developments the future holds, no matter what devices will surface: Technology is simply an enabler, an easer, a multiplier, distributer, a vehicle. The true power lies in the human nature of communication, conversation, and storytelling.

Do listen to, observe your audiences, and maybe(?) realize: The age of (traditional) story TELLING could be over. Never the age of STORY itself, but maybe tomorrow’s audiences will really want fragmentation, want to be stimulated from multiple sources and in multiple places. Of course, THE CONCEPT OF STORY will and cannot change, it’s genuinely human, but: Maybe the future is indeed more about story ENGAGEMENT, involving audiences actively in plot creation or character development. This would radically influence scripting, e.g. by taking devices and reception environments into consideration when writing a story’s various chapters.

Again, all of this holds true not only in arts and entertainment, but also in business, along the infamous, much recited “customer journey”, a journey that is getting more and more complicated, but – if you listen and truly get involved – ever more rewarding for all story and hence conversation participants.

Devil or Angel. Angel or Devil. Both?

Exciting, to say the least.

Hmm, I say.


How Does Story Relate to Business?

herr dennehy:

Although I find the following video a little too self-adverstising, and the first 30 seconds are basically a not-to-click teaser, I urge you to go beyond this initial downer.

Because: the essence of Robert McKee’s take on business story quoted here is actually worth inhaling:

  1. Allow the positive AND the negative!
  2. Don’t be afraid of EMOTIONS! All decisions, no matter how rational, cause change. And change causes emotion.

  3. Stories equip us to live. Data and pie charts do NOT!

  4. History’s best (or most influential) leaders (political, business, wherever) have been great storytellers, using stories to lead.

Now that’s definitely a good start to creating more meaningful, more convincing, more persuasive content in business communications.

Give it a try!

Originally posted on Story Blog:

Robert McKee has taught Story-in-Business all over the world. This quick clip from Brazil hints at some of the content of his one-day seminar.

Six Classic Errors in Business Story:

  1. Telling your story from the company’s view.
  2. Talking to the customer in the third person.
  3. Avoiding reality as way too “heavy”.
  4. Creating a gratuitious feel-good factor.
  5. Avoiding exact detail in the search for universality.
  6. Calling rhetorical exercises “stories” when they are only directed at the mental processes.

Featured Article:

Harvard Business Review: “Robert McKee on Storytelling That Moves People”

Why is persuasion so difficult, and what can you do to set people on fire? In search of answers to those questions, HBR senior editor Bronwyn Fryer paid a visit to Robert McKee, the world’s best-known and most respected screenwriting lecturer. Read more.

Fall Seminar Dates

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The Lopsided Love Story of Mister G. and Mister D., Part 2: The Trip

“A part of me pre
A part of me post
A part of me present
One part of me ghost
A part of me wants to run.”

David Gray, “As The Crow Flies” (2014)


This is the story about pre me getting to know Mister G.:

It was sometime in the autumn of 1999, probably a rainy day, as autumn days tend to be. I was hanging around record stores with my friend and flat mate Martin, as so often in those days. In one of the more major-label stores in town, I literally (true story!) tripped over a massive Warner Bros. promotion stand advertising “White Ladder” (which is interesting, as the album was never really released with Warner Bros., but on David’s own label “IHT Records” under license to Warner Music UK Ltd., but probably IHT wouldn’t have had a stand in that record store, so there you go).

Anyway. I don’t know how or why, but somehow I felt, simply by looking at the cover, that I was standing in front of something different, something special, something that didn’t quite fit into this mainstream record store’s usual repertoire. I stepped a little closer, reached out for one of the CD’s that had fallen to the ground …

And then …

…All surrounding ambient sound faded. The atmosphere  became eerie, lights dimmed. A distant voice whispered into my ear “This record will change your life!”. It was like I had jumped the tracks of time and space. Fog coming from where the record store’s loudspeakers were, a very mystical Galadriel moment …

And then …

Nothing. Little storyteller’s detour, freedom to exaggerate and put the subtext into perspective. :) In real life, the store was boring and unmystically commercial, no ghosts of past-away singer-songwriter gods around directing me to my new love. I guess…

But I did indeed reach for one of the CD’s I had knocked down off of their pedestal, looked at the simple, yet somehow secretive cover, flipped sides, struck by the design’s focus on content, i.e. songs. Only 10, perfect amount. 8 always too close to an EP, suggesting a lack of material, 12 still ok, but already on the verge of being too much to grasp an album at first listening. Turning the CD back around, there was (and still is, I’ve never taken it off) this sticker with a review quote from “The Times”, saying: “It’s a record that makes your life feel better by its mere existence.” To date, this remains the best compliment for any artistic work that I’ve ever read. And a knock-down argument for me to buy the CD. Which I did.

The mother of all CD cover stickers! You can even see my hand reaching out to climb the White Ladder. :)

The mother of all CD cover stickers! You can even still see the hand reaching out to climb the White Ladder. :)

Guess this is what you call love at first sight, like meeting a woman in a bar or the office, knowing: This is the one. The beginning.

What happened next: overzealous attempts to get to know this new lover better, discover his history like an archeologist, getting lost in endless hours of hot rotations. Putting flesh to the bones of my new passion at the end of a century, secretly hoping Mister G. would be mine, be mine, remain mine, that he wouldn’t sell, sell, sell (out).

White Ladders’ drum intro alone: a statement, a clear move from raw singer-songwriting (that we know from album 1-3) to courageous upbeat folk pop without the often attached cheesiness. Creating an immediate atmosphere of minor mood turning into major pleasure, a promise the album is able to keep right up to the last chord after 57:17 minutes (excluding UK bonus track “(I Can’t Get) Through to Myself” and US bonus track “Babylon II”).

If that doesn’t get to you, nothing will:


This is the official video incl. David’s congenial ex-drummer Craig McClune, always a sensationally entertaining counterpart to his boss whenever they performed together – and I must admit: I have been missing him ever since he split up with David in 2006!

It’s tough to even select favourite tunes from this perfect album, but if I had to (which I gladly don’t), I’d definitely go for:

I. “This Year’s Love” (in this amazing live version):


II. “Nightblindness”, e-very-specially in this just mind-blowing live version from the London Roundhouse, unfortunately only the audio on YouTube, so close your eyes and escape for 11:05 minutes, worth every second:


III. (of course!) “Sail Away”, a single that literally changed my life … the intro of this live version being my official “Honey Ringtone” ever since it was published on the “Draw the Line” Deluxe Edition:



PART 3 will be exploring the power of a song with its own story to change mine at the probably most important crossroads of my life so far …