November 22, 2016

The true sign of a great story

Do you know what the true sign of a great story is?

I’ll tell you in just a moment…

Leith Harbour

This place is called Leith Harbour. Leith Harbour was a self-contained whaling station, built by the Christian Salvesen company in 1909. It’s on the British island of South Georgia, in the South Pacific.

At one time Leith Harbour was the biggest whaling station in the world. It had a pop-up cinema, hospital, pharmacy, and even a narrow gauge railway.

At the peak of ‘production’ in 1925, 16,000 tons of whale oil were processed here to send back to Britain. An estimated 1.6 million whales were killed in the South Atlantic in the 20th Century, and many of them were processed at Leith Harbour. In the 1920’s Christian Salvesen, who still operated the site, were making the equivalent of £100m a year profit in today’s money.

Leith Harbour in 1960's

The same photo taken round to the right, 50 years earlier

The plant was so efficient, an entire whale could be stripped of blubber, chopped up and processed within 20 minutes. Most of the oil produced was sent home to make margarine, and soap.

I watched a programme about Leith Harbour last weekend, and something about it has stayed with me for a few days. If you look at the story of Leith Harbour, it’s a true archetypal tragedy. The main dark character of the story is the harbour itself. The whalers can be viewed as accomplices, although we have to be mindful of changing public perceptions towards whaling. The victims are of course the whales.

As with any tragedy, the story ends with the death of the main character. Blinded to the perilous nature of the whale’s situation by corporate greed, the only outcome for Leith Harbour was eventual death.

The role of a powerful story is to get you thinking about a deep and important issue. To present some fundamental aspect of human nature to you, and give you a dilemma.

What would you have done, if you were there? Would you have taken the good money on offer, and manned a harpoon gun?

A really great story stays with you for some time after it has ended. A great story takes a little time to process.

It’s a challenge to tell great stories in your marketing, but the results are worthwhile.

Are you writing great stories? Or are you recycling tired, mediocre information?

To learn how to write great stories, enter your name and email address below.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.