Every good business story needs a leaping zebra.

(What follows is the outline I wrote in advance of recording the video. They’re my talking points. Not a regular post or article. Just an outline.)

Great question from Stephan, who took my course on Selling With Stories.

“For business communications, is it enough just to describe something that has happened? Is that a story? If told well, does a description of something that happened at work qualify as a story? I guess I’m not quite clear on what a business story actually is!”

Thank you Stephan. That’s a terrific question.

Let me try to answer you with some examples.

Here’s a description of an event…

I walked down to the corner shop to buy some milk.

That’s just a description… not a story.

Now try this one…

I was walking down to the corner shop to buy some milk when a zebra jumped out into the street.

That’s a story.

Why? Because something unusual, surprising or unexpected happened.


I drove to the gym for my daily fitness training.

Again, just a description.


I was driving to the gym for my daily fitness training when I realized I could get the same exercise simply by walking there!

That second one has the seed of a story in it.

It’s not as dramatic as the jumping zebra. But something unexpected still happened. This time it happened in my mind. The realization that it didn’t make much sense to drive to the gym.

In a business context…

When I canceled my subscription to their service, I received an email saying they were sorry to see me go.


When I canceled my subscription to their service, I received an email from the company’s CEO, asking if I had time for a quick phone call.

That second one is a story, because it contains that unexpected element. Who would expect the CEO of a company to try to save one subscription?

So… Stephan… that’s the litmus test to use.

If nothing unusual, surprising or unexpected happens, it’s probably not a story.

Just ask the question… Does it have a leaping zebra?

NOTE: If you’d like to use the power of storytelling to increase your skills as a web content writer, online copywriter or social media writer, learn more about my course… Selling With Stories…

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1 thought on “Every good business story needs a leaping zebra.”

  1. There is a photographic parallel to your video. The Rule of Thirds.
    If the subject of a photograph is exactly in the middle, your eye says, “Ok, I got this. Next?” No thought, no curiosity, no impact.
    If the subject is placed off center, the eye begins to wander through the image and try to seek out the location, the details, and the story.

    Leaping zebra is good, but a charging hippo is probably too much…

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