The Storytelling Hook for Your Content That Works Every Time

May 12, 2021

Humans, by nature, are storytellers. Since the beginning of time, stories have influenced the hearts and minds of our entire species and are also the most powerful underlying tool for us as marketers. Crafting narratives that are compelling is no easy task, so wouldn’t it be nice if there were a simple hack that could make the process easier?

Park Howell has spent more than three decades in branding and advertising, and he has seen firsthand how difficult it is to create a story that breaks through the noise and truly resonates with an audience.

In this session from our Digital Summit at Home archives (full video above!), Park lays out an easy, repeatable framework he calls “The ABT,” that can empower brands to repeatedly hook audiences.

The Applied Science of Storytelling (1:20)

Howell kicks this session off by proclaiming that his love for storytelling is due to the sense of optimism that comes along with it and the ability to create worlds for an audience. But it’s not an inherently easy task.

To address this, he recommends using the “ABT,” or “And, But, & Therefore,” method of storytelling to capture, or hook, the audience’s attention and imagination. This method hinges on applied science that examines how the human brain processes information and is discussed in more detail later in the session.

In years past, Howell argues that brands “owned” the mass media and had an easier time capturing their audience through TV, radio, PR efforts, print advertising, and more and they didn’t necessarily have to be great storytellers.

Now, the advent of the internet and social media caused a shift in the sense that the masses became the media, resulting in the need for much stronger storytelling to produce results.

With every interaction, our brains must navigate and process this immense volume of information. With this being the case, work to craft stories that follow the problem-solution dynamic to capture the human mind.

TRY THIS: Read “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human” by Jonathan Gotschall to get a better understanding of the idea of how story structure interacts with brain structure.

The And, But & Therefore (ABT) Framework (9:30)

Following an example of a visual containing only moving shapes to tell a story, Howell moves on to discuss how communicators must set the goal of creating emotional meaning in the simplest way that we possibly can. He accomplishes this through the formulaic hack to storytelling that will hook your audience in a short amount of time that uses the and, but, and there approach outlined below.

LINE 1: Set the context, placing your audience at the center of the story AND then raise the stakes and address what it is that they want

This opening line should be aspirational, delivering something that your audience wants out of life.

LINE 2: Insert the problem prefaced by BUT

LINE 3: Use THEREFORE to address the solution that you are offering to the audience.

Here is a clear example of how an example would read:

“Digital marketers communicate and care, but often bore. Therefore, tell a story to hack through the noise and hook the hearts of your customers.”

Howell goes on to provide several wide-ranging examples of how this “hack” has been used, including Carly Rae Jepson’s hit song “Call Me Maybe,” the Gettysburg Address, popular nursery rhymes, and various business cases. Watch the full session video to 

Using applied science, this method is proven to increase the likelihood that your story will be received and resonate with customers, ultimately improving the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

In closing, Howell downplays potential skepticism about the directness of the ABT hack by reinforcing the importance of simplifying your story.

As with anything, writing in this method will take practice and may seem hard at first. For those just getting started, he recommends starting with the “but” statement, or the problem, before completing the rest of the process.

If you stay the course, you’re narrative will be hooking your audience like never be for in no time.


To hear from experts like Park on the regular, check out an upcoming Digital Summit event — including our upcoming Digital Summit at Home: B2B virtual conference May 25-27. It’s three days of game-changing B2B marketing workshops, sessions, and keynotes — from the world’s leading B2B brands and experts.