ResourcesUsing storytelling for strategic planning

Using storytelling for strategic planning

Marketing Masters: How to use storytelling for strategic planning

Franklin Parrish, Creative Director and Strategic Marketing leader at Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic is the latest guest on the ClickZ Marketing Masters podcast.

As a seasoned storyteller and strategic director, Parrish talks us through the importance of storytelling for marketers and how story structures can be used in the process of strategic planning. He describes a ‘great marketing leader’ as one who can communicate up and down the chain, using storytelling to connect marketing activities to business goals.

The power of storytelling

Humans are built for stories. It is in our DNA. All our knowledge and culture are routed in a story in some form. Stories reflect the point of view and values of the speaker, are digestible, and can easily be retold. Crucially, anyone can be a storyteller. It is a skill that can be learned.

Parrish recommends Klaus Fog’s book “Storytelling: Branding in Practice” as a source of authority. He breaks down the story structure including the character, plot, and conflict, and explains the different characters that can exist.

Each story requires not only a hero but an adversary to overcome and a beneficiary who will share the goal of the hero. Whilst these characters can be portrayed as a Knight saving the village from a dragon, they can just as easily be portrayed in the context of an organization striving to achieve business goals.

Any entity can see themselves in the story and be able to contribute their relevant support to achieve that goal. Storytelling can also be used as a diagnostic tool. You can judge initiatives by the impact they will have on the story, helping marketing leaders to evaluate ideas, wherever they may come from.

How storytelling can help with performance marketing

Storytelling can help marketers connect with business stakeholders, allowing them to demonstrate the value they add to the organization. Conversations that are phrased in the language of marketing may alienate those who do not have this knowledge. In many cases, much of the information marketers may plan to share simply is not necessary. As Parrish puts it, you do not need to know how to fix a car to buy a car.

He provides three reasons why storytelling is such an effective tool for marketers:

  1. You can use it to help develop a strategy and get contributions from stakeholders
  2. Pulling your reporting into a story structure and an easy-to-follow narrative allows you to ensure comprehension.
  3. It can help with editing. You only include the data you need to support your point and generate understanding to help you get the ‘yes’!

Parrish concludes by reflecting on the consistency of storytelling and how it can future-proof marketers against the rapidly changing marketing landscape.


00:11 – Introduction

00:59 – What makes a great marketing leader?

01:50 – Why is storytelling such a powerful capability for a marketing leader to possess?

03:16 – How can storytelling be used for strategic planning?

08:22 – What about the structure is the most impactful?

08:59 – What tips do you have for marketing leaders who want to learn and develop their storytelling capabilities?

10:36 – What impact can strategic planning (and storytelling) have on the relationship between marketing and other business stakeholder relationships?

14:16 – How is the marketing landscape changing and what impact might that have on the importance of using a storytelling structure?

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Franklin Parrish is currently the creative director and strategic marketing leader at Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic, supporting $6B in annual revenue. Franklin has more than 20 years of experience in brand marketing, advertising, and interactive design. His responsibilities include brand, marketing, and creative strategies and development, media buying, budgeting, and providing strategic direction and operational guidance for Kaiser Permanente’s marketing and advertising efforts to drive member growth to 1 million members.

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